Saturday Morning Rounds May 2, 2020 - How to lead (even if you don't have authority)

Posted by BossB, MD on May 2, 2020
BossB, MD

What we're reading

Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard

We don't have to tell you that women are massively underrepresented in medical leadership positions.

What we might need remind you of, however - what we all need to be reminded of on occasion - is that one doesn't need authority to be a leader. Leadership isn't about a title or decision-making power - it's about influencing others, preferably for the better.

Now scoot in close cause we're gonna let you in on a little secret. The authority and titles and decision-making powers that we all want to see more women in medicine hold? Well, they tend to find their way into the hands of those rare few who intentionally study and master the art of positively influencing others, of leadership - regardless of gender.

Which means (a) that you can always lead wherever you're at, (b) that there are a lot more things in your sphere of influence than you likely realize, and (c) that the path to authority and title and decision-making power is a predictable one that you can reliably speed your progress on, should you so choose. 

And this book - in our opinions one of the very best books on leadership ever written - is a great guide for how to do so.

Leadership and the One Minute Manager is:

  • Simple - Almost to the extent of being kitschy
  • Short - Only 134 pages of really large type w/lots of white space
  • Story-Based - It tells the story of a female entrepreneur learning about leadership through a series of interactions with a mentor

It is also, pound-for-pound, the most highly applicable, effective, and tactical leadership system we know of. And the essence of that applicability and effectiveness lies in what the authors call "Situational Leadership" - the idea that different people, different tasks, and different moments call for different leadership styles.

Here's the essence of what the book has to teach in a single image:

The essential argument here is that people have two components that drive how they engage with any task or role - competence and commitment.

And that leaders have two types of behaviors they can offer those they lead to improve how they engage with any task or role - directive behaviors and supportive behaviors.

Now this all might seem painfully simple, and that's because it is. Which is exactly why it's so effective - because you can use it in almost any situation, especially when you don't have a lot of bandwidth because emotions are running high.

Let's give it a spin real quick to show you what we mean. Think of a leadership interaction that you've seen go wrong, preferably one in which you were the leader. Really, get it in your head - envision it, transport yourself to that moment. Now, imagine that before the conversation the leader had diagnosed where those they were leading were at in their development level. Imagine that during the conversation the leader had shown some range and flexibility, meeting those being led where they were at, with what they needed in that moment to either understand the task better, to feel better about the relationship or their place in the organization, or both.

We'll bet that the scenario you just played out went a lot better than the original one did in real life, and that's why we love this book.

Who we're following

It's impossible for us to talk about women in medical leadership without giving a shoutout to the American Medical Women's Association (@AMWADoctors). The "about" section from their website says it better than we ever could:

"For nearly a century, the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) has been committed to the advancement of women in medicine. Although the number of women choosing careers in medicine has grown substantially, there has not been a commensurate increase in the percentage of women in senior leadership positions. To redress this situation, AMWA has carried out ambitious advocacy efforts including research, constituency building, mentoring, leadership development, and policy reform to enable environmental and institutional transformation."

AMWA is one of our most valued partner organizations, and we're actually currently running our personal finance and entrepreneurship webinar series with them! Become a member today and email us your confirmation if you'd like to be attend the final webinar of that 3-part series and get access to the recordings :)

BBMD tip of the week

It's easy to say that one can lead from wherever one is at today, regardless of title and authority. It's another thing entirely to believe it and to do so. 

That's what our tip of the week is about.

If you've been reading this newsletter for any amount of time, you'll know that we're fans of simple systems because they're more likely to work for you in the moment. And this is one of our favorite little ways of thinking about leadership.

Essentially, you can always lead. The way you do so depends on where you are in one of three contexts:

  • Leading from In Front: This is what we think of when we usually think of leadership - the one in the front of the room with the talking stick and the authority.
  • Leading from Beside: This is being a leader amongst one's peers and colleagues - sharing best practices, supporting each other, celebrating their wins, and actively seeking opportunities to add value.
  • Leading from Behind: This is what we like to call "managing up" - the way you lead those who are in authority above you, the art of being a good follower. Skills used in this context include supporting your leader's success, communicating well and often, trying to make them and the whole team look good, and the like.

Once we reframe "being a leader" as something we do at all times rather than some far-off goal that's hard and unlikely for us to attain, we become one, de facto.

And this little spatial framework is an easy mental shortcut to help us recognize and embody whatever the best version of our inner leader would be doing in any given situation, thereby believing even more that we are, in fact, leaders, thereby leading more effectively, and so on and so forth.

Now go ride that positive feedback loop all the way to the top of wherever it is you wanna go.

Quote we're contemplating

"Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes." -Margaret Wheatley

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Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!