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The Roots of Great Leadership: Creativity, Resilience, and Compassion

November 24, 2020


The Roots of Great Leadership: Creativity, Resilience, and Compassion

5 Key Points

  • Stay connected to what is happening on the ground by making rounds throughout your Perioperative Departments and the departments that impact Perioperative Services. 
  • Cultivate future leaders. Identify others who might make good leaders and actively mentor them. 
  • Be prepared to push mentees out of the nest to their next opportunity even it is outside your organization. 
  • Focus on team achievements, not personal achievements. 
  • Make work-life balance a priority. When home, disconnect from work to be present with loved ones. 


Full Conversation

Is there a moment or event that drew you to perioperative leadership?

I had an exceptional mentor who recognized my potential and provided me with opportunities to move into leadership. Right away, I enjoyed it because it gave me a sense of achievement and accomplishment. My very first leadership job ever was in high school as a pool manager. My job was to make sure everyone was having an enjoyable time and that the pool was safe and clean. I also held leadership positions playing football. My goal was to get 11 guys on a football field to think with the same brain, so that we all moved as one. I was successful at it, it was rewarding, and fun. It gave me a real since of accomplishment. 

What are some skills and qualities that you believe to be important for a potential perioperative leader? 

A person that has the potential for perioperative leadership needs to understand the rules, but also be able to think creatively or “out of the box, and be independent. They need to be problem solvers, excited about their future and the future of the organization, and be a team player. As a leader, when you see those things in member of your staff, you need to reach out to them and say, “I think you have a fantastic opportunity to advance in our organization or to advance in nursing/healthcare. I’d like to teach you and show you how to lead people in our organization to achieve our goals. Are you interested?” The most important piece as a leader is to identify others who you think would make good leaders and then teach and support them. Great leaders just don’t happen, they’re cultivated. When that person is ready for the next opportunity, and that opportunity doesn’t exist with your organization, you must be willing to push them out of the nest. Even if they are the best OR nurse/OR leader you’ve ever had. Help them find that management position so they can continue to move up. 

In your experience, what are the primary challenges of being in leadership and how can they be overcome?

Becoming myopic and only focused on personal achievements. The biggest Achilles’ heel for leaders is our egos. Thinking about what we want to achieve for ourselves, instead of what the team should be achieving. The team can feel it when you’re not present and looking for your next opportunity. Another issue is authoritarian-type behavior. It can’t be “your way, or the highway.” That stifles discussion. Leaders also have to careful about being pulled in too many different directions. When you’re good at your job, the organization knows it. But then you find yourself on one committee after another and you don’t see your staff as much and your finger isn’t on the pulse of your Perioperative Departments. Don’t go to every meeting. If you don’t need to be there, ask your leadership if you can skip it. When was the last time you were in SPD or PACU? All those other areas impact the OR. Make daily rounds and stay engaged with your staff, always. 

Why is superior leadership central to a high performing Perioperative Department?

Our Perioperative Departments are a team of five groups: nurses, surgeons, anesthesia, SPD, and supply chain. They all come together around the care of a patient. A good leader can bring those groups into harmony, to function like a precision time piece. The result is world-class healthcare and exceptional revenue for the organization. Poor leadership will result in the opposite; true chaos, poor care for our patients, and lost revenue. 

For those interested in leadership, but may be wary of the prospect, what are the advantages of being in leadership? 

New opportunities. As you get promoted and continue to do well, you’ll advance your career. If the organization meets its goals, there are financial incentives, such as bonuses. But the most important part is networking and mentoring. Talking to Whitman Partners about the topic of leadership and sharing my knowledge, invitations to talk on podcasts, opportunities to serve as a board member for health care companies so you can influence the future of healthcare. Seeing former staff members that I’ve helped achieve leadership milestones is an unbelievably rewarding experience. At the end of your life, no one will put on your tombstone, “Exceptional CEO.” They’re going to say, “Loving spouse, parent, sibling, friend.” No amount of money can replace having a positive impact on others.

How can leaders prioritize self-care?

You truly have to discipline yourself. Get up, work out, eat right. When you are at home not working, disconnect so that you have a work-life balance, especially if you’re a parent. If you don’t, you will fail at the most important leadership role you have, that of being a mom or dad. Not a “mother” or “father,” but mom and dad. I use those distinctions on purpose; our children confide in and want to be around their mom or dad. You want to be a partner, confidant, best friend not just a spouse. You must engage at home the exact same way you engage when you’re at work. 

You are writing a book on leadership. What inspired you to do so? 

I’m writing this book because I used the tenets of Bushido to be a good leader and they work. But I relate it back to being a dad, a partner, and a good person. It’s about my personal stories of achievement and how I used those tenets to become a better leader, but it’s also about hitting rock bottom emotionally and then subsequently using those same tenets the second half of my life to become a better person. I want to encourage people and show them how to achieve that balance from the start.