In my most recent editorial,1 I discussed why doctors make the best leaders in medicine and why they should take charge of their own practices. The rationale I provided was, I believe, sound, yet becoming a great leader takes more than just wanting to be a great leader. This issue of CRST Europe focuses on various aspects of leadership, in particular providing guidance on some of the tools required of physician leaders.
Our primary goal as doctors is to look after our patients to the best of our abilities. We do this by acquiring medical knowledge and skills. In order to deliver outstanding care to our patients, however, we need the assistance of a team including nurses, technicians, receptionists, administrators, and finance staff. This is a team that works toward the doctor’s goal. They are led by the doctor, who should provide the team with direction, methodology, and strategy on how to reach that goal in a manner that aligns with the doctor’s own personal values and principles.
Take a moment to reflect on this: You probably already do these things subconsciously. But could you perform even better as a leader by understanding the principles involved in leadership and by obtaining new knowledge and skills? We have all observed colleagues who are natural leaders and who have developed successful practices. I suspect that, if you talk to these individuals, you will probably find that they went through a phase of development as well, through either the school of hard knocks or formal training—and usually both.
Medical school does not prepare us for the role of leader, but it does put us in a prime position by training us to work principally for the benefit of our patients. To quote Guy M. Kezirian, MD, MBA, FACS, “Medical practices exist to serve patients.” We can choose to do this in a mediocre manner or to excel and derive great pleasure from providing phenomenal value to our patients.
I have no doubt that our readers wish to excel in serving their patients; however, not everyone wishes to be a leader, and many are content to practice good ophthalmology in an environment that works well for them. But anyone running a business—or in our case a practice—will tell you that the responsibility of leadership is phenomenal, and almost every waking moment is consumed with thinking, worrying, and working on constant improvement.
Reading the articles in this issue, it struck me that there is a great deal of business jargon being discussed, and this can be daunting for the novice. Below I try to tie some of these elements together.
What does it take to excel in providing a great service? Start with a bit of mindful navel-gazing—figuring out what you are about and what you want. These constitute your values and goals, which, in turn, help you to map out the direction you wish to take and to position both yourself and your brand. The direction you wish to take influences your strategy, and the mode of transportation you choose (the organization’s culture) reflects your values. Yet you cannot get there alone; you need a team—your employees, whose roles cannot be underestimated.
You also need to know how money works, so being knowledgeable about finance is important to ensure that cash, the lubricant of any business, will always be available and that any venture you are considering makes financial sense. In other words: You must have a well-considered business plan.
Finally, having the desire and the tools required of good leadership does not automatically mean success. We venture out with hopes on many fronts: that our decisions will be correct, that our employees will follow our lead, and that we will be successful. We are also enterprising—yes, even in medical practice. As entrepreneurs, we are also dealers: dealing with hopeful patients, hopeful vendors, hopeful third-party payers, regulators, and, of course, hopeful employees.
Now I understand what Napoleon Bonaparte meant when he said, “The only way to lead people is to show them a future. A leader is a dealer in hope.”
We hope you enjoy and derive considerable benefit from this issue.
Sheraz M. Daya, MD, FACP, FACS, FRCS(Ed), FRCOphth
Chief Medical Editor
1. Daya S. Taking Charge of the Future. CRST Europe. 2016;1:5-6.