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Doctor as leader

It's clear that there is a leadership crisis in many sectors of our society. This void is glaringly evident in the healthcare sector, particularly in the public hospitals that serve the vast majority of our population.

How can doctor leaders contribute to the delivery of quality healthcare by empowering their teams to perform at their best?

The coaching approach to leadership is founded on the premise that leaders create more leaders, not followers. There are a number of ways in which doctor leaders can use the coaching approach to empower and motivate their teams:

Create a safe environment for people to speak up without fear of being humiliated, shamed or ostracised.

If this was the only step that was achieved in our hospitals it would be a massive step in the right direction.

So many doctors are trained in a culture of fear, where your best chances of success are to put your head down, do as you're told, work your way up the ranks until such time as you can dish out the same abuse to your juniors.

The impact of this culture is that many are left feeling disempowered and fearful and they aren't able to think and perform at their best. The evidence from neuroscience is clear - when people are fearful they will go into survival mode where their primary concern is making it through the perceived threat. They certainly won't be thinking creatively, collaborating with others or trying innovative approaches.

By creating a safe environment you create the space for people to think, and out of that thinking will emerge value for patients and the team as a whole.

Believe in people's ability to do great work.

And don't just believe in it; demonstrate it by listening and asking questions. For example: if the outpatients' department doesn't seem to work well, ask the people who actually work in OPD for their ideas on how things could work better instead of telling them what to do. Be open to ideas that may differ from how you might do things; that way you increase the pool of innovative solutions in your team.

Use mistakes as opportunities for learning.

There isn't a doctor in the world who hasn't made a mistake at some point in their career. As a leader how you deal with those mistakes will determine whether people learn and grow, or shut down and even blame others for them.

Show appreciation for the effort people put in.

This is a very challenging time to be working in the health system. Say "thank you". Acknowledge where people are making progress. Celebrate the small wins. Sometimes it's the seemingly small stuff that makes the biggest difference.

As a leader, what will you do to bring out the best in your team?

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