Saturday, May 01, 2010

What Is A Family Medicine Leader?

What is a Leader? What is a Family Medicine Leader? Giving a clear and concise answer to these questions have been a challenge for me as I have taken on different leadership tasks and positions.

I can’t believe that it was 10 years ago when I gave my first speech in seeking national office for my professional organization. I was in the final year of my residency, and my colleagues had to convince me to “just give it a go.”

I had done a bunch of stuff on the state level. But, I didn’t feel my game was ready for “prime time” – meaning being on a national stage. I remember that speech like it was yesterday. My heart still pounds and my hands still get sweaty thinking about it. At the time, it was the most stressful couple of minutes of my life.

I thought it was quite an accomplishment just to get through that speech. When I learned later that I was in fact elected, I knew that moment changed my leadership life forever. I was able to overcome the fears of failure and embarrassment to have that turning point open the door for many leadership positions which unfolded over the past decade.

Probably the highlight of this recent course was being the 2007 chair of the meeting that was just completed here in Kansas City – the AAFP National Conference of Special Constituencies (NCSC - Search for the #aafpncsc tag on twitter). At the time, the meeting was only in its 17th edition – so having the title "Chair" of the meeting was definitely an exclusive club.

This year’s NCSC was a different experience for me in that I was “just” a participant and not involved at all in the planning or on the leadership team – a kind of outsider looking in. I even tried to run for another national office, but this time I was unsuccessful. For the next few hours, I kept asking myself, "Was I A Failure?"

Something very interesting happened after that. More than a few people came up to me and said, “I’m sorry you lost your election, but since you’ve had a lot of experience at this meeting, I need some advice on an issue.”

It was at that moment when a light bulb went off in my head. Leadership is about making a positive connection with a person AND empowering the person to help them reach their leadership potential. This is what drives me to do what I do, as opposed to obtaining more leadership titles and winning elections.

So, as I put this meeting behind me, I know that the work that I did will not be posted to any kind of website (except mine, of course). But, I do have a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment knowing that I made a difference. And, that's all I need....

For my Family Medicine friends who read this post, I encourage you to share your answer to the question - "What Is A Family Medicine Leader?" It is through sharing our experiences where we can be better advocates for our specialty and for our patients.


Callie said...

Great post, Mike. It was good to see you.

Dr. A said...


Dr Synonymous said...

A leader between gigs is still a leader. "Rebooting" the leader allows him to notice the mentor role that comes to the leader eventually and persists forever.

"Go where you are celebrated instead of where you are tolerated." My message today from The Assignment: The Dream and the Destiny by Mike Murdock.

Sometimes a leader outgrows an organization and needs to move on to best serve. How do we know if we hit that point?

Finally, both geeks and geezers can lead, even better if they work together. Peace. Pat

Dr. A said...

Interesting thoughts. Thanks for the feedback...

Jill of All Trades, MD said...

Simply being a good physician is being a leader -- titles are not important. You went through a lot to get to this point in your life! What's important is that you make a difference in your patients' lives and that you remain true to yourself, which we know you do :)

familydocwonk said...

It has been said that the mere act of showing up is an act of leadership. That would be true for the vast majority of family docs who remain present for their patients and communities. However, I believe that the time is upon us for a paradigm shift. Merely showing up is not enough.

I have been trying to wrap my mind around how family medicine and civic engagement, natural fits for one another when you think about it, sometimes mix like oil and water. Then I remembered that we all went to medical school and therefore are physicians first. What I mean is that we are trained to think linearly whereas "treating" social determinants of health is not linear at all.

As we build more effective training opportunities for family docs to exercise the "systems" part of their brains (like NCSC), I believe that the intellectual part of family medicine leadership will catch up with passion part of it and we will have achieved our tipping point: one in which family docs are as comfortable in the clinic as they are in a coalition meeting or legislative visit or press conference.

consultdoc said...

I am currently attending the Am College of Physician Execs meeting in DC and had this very discussion with some new members this AM. At the end of the day, leaders lead. Having a title is not important. In fact, sometimes it even gets in the way of our ability to effectively lead.