Leadership brands — why they matter to physicians
“According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, physicians' satisfaction with their leaders is closely associated with the frequency with which leaders are perceived as exhibiting specific transformational leadership behavior. These results point to five specific behaviors that might be targeted to enhance both leadership skills and faculty members' satisfaction with their leaders.”
Callie Bland, BSc, BSN, RN, CPCC, PCC
Something I’m often asked by physicians is, “why do I need a leadership brand? Aren’t brands about marketing big organizations like Apple and Nike and Coca Cola?” It’s an interesting question. My answer? You already have a brand whether you know it — and like it — or not. Your brand is about how people see you and your qualities and attributes. It’s a reflection of how you express yourself on a daily basis. And you have the opportunity to be conscious and intentional about how you’re perceived by others.
By the very nature of the work they do, physicians are influential leaders. While physicians influence their colleagues, medical trainees, healthcare executives, allied healthcare professionals and patients, they are not always aware of the degree of their influence. Physicians are also viewed as leaders in their communities. That’s why it’s important for them to make conscious choices about the kind of leader whey want to be — and build their leadership brand from the inside out. If you don’t know what your leadership brand is and you’re not consciously creating it, you might be perceived in ways that don’t match your intentions.
A conscious leadership branding process starts internally with self awareness. By asking yourself questions like, “who do I want to be?” and “what impact do I want to have on the people around me?” you can start to develop a strong sense of who you are, what you will do and the direction you want to go as a leader. Clarifying your core values and principles and developing personal mission and vision statements are key activities of the branding process. Turn your attention inward and deeply listen to yourself. Effective listening is a skill that many leaders think they are good at when in fact there is often a gap in listening skills. The LEADS in a Caring Environment Framework is specifically developed for leaders in healthcare and is becoming a popular framework with leadership development initiatives across Canada. The LEAD Self domain points to four capabilities: awareness of self, management of self, development of self and demonstration of character. Developing these capabilities will help you create your brand and consistently demonstrate it. Being consistent with your brand builds trust. Trust will help others align with your vision, goals and objectives and ultimately achieve results.
Once you’ve started to figure out who and what you are, and discover ways to demonstrate your brand, it’s important to understand if there’s a gap between your intention and your impact. Finding formalized feedback in proactive, supportive ways helps ensure your brand is aligned with your intentions and, if it isn’t, gives you the opportunity to course correct. Seek regular formal and informal feedback, and engage in reflective practice with at least one other person regularly. This could be through a group setting where physicians get together to talk and develop solutions and strategies that help them learn to be effective leaders. You can also work with a coach or mentor. Whatever methods you choose, feedback will help you challenge your own assumptions and gain insight into the type of leader people perceive you to be. While receiving feedback is difficult for most of us, it’s a skill that can also be improved with support and practice.
Adapting your leadership brand to match your level of leadership, the different groups you work with and your responsibilities will help you thrive as a leader. Diversity in leadership is healthy and provides organizations choice in finding the right leader to align with its mission, vision, values and strategic direction. Making a conscious choice to adapt your brand to fit a new role or organizational culture doesn’t make it inconsistent. For example, if the core components of your brand are excellence, integrity and stability, then you might consider adapting how you package these qualities to ensure you are relevant, effective and adding value in different situations.
Different levels of leaders require different skillsets, which means you can focus your attention on developing the leadership capabilities that are important for the role and responsibilities you have at the moment. Leadership development can feel overwhelming, especially if you are in a state of conscious incompetence. Clarify the development goals you want to achieve, meet yourself where you’re at and take action to learn.
Developing your leadership brand will help you create the right opportunities, work with the right people and do work that will enable you to contribute in a meaningful way. Physician leaders have the capacity to learn and master effective leadership capabilities. The key to harnessing your potential as a leader is to be curious, ask powerful questions and listen to yourself and others. Learning in the context of safe relationships will help you stretch out of your comfort zone. Seek out others to join you on your leadership development journey and learn in community. By raising the bar of your own leadership, you can enhance the quality of our healthcare system.
About Callie Bland, BSc, BSN, RN, CPCC, PCC
Executive coach and Registered Nurse Callie Bland has more than 15 years’ experience in public and private healthcare systems in Canada and the United States, and extensive experience in executive coaching and workshop facilitation. Callie specializes in partnering with healthcare leaders to harness their potential and develop their ability to more effectively lead themselves and others, and manage systems. By rigorously seeking the truth with respect and compassion, Callie helps clients discover and make best use of their strengths, increase awareness of blind spots, take action and achieve results. Coaching people throughout their careers has given Callie a broad perspective of the capabilities and priorities that arise at each different career stage.
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