Original Publish Date: December 8, 2020
Mr. Gannon, the well-respected business manager of a radiology practice in my city, was my first boss. I was a young, new marketing director. He was a red-headed, Irish Catholic man with 13 children, a strong character, and a dry wit. When he hired me, he instructed me to use all my best marketing ideas and strategies to market the practice in that area. He assured me he would support me, even if I made a mistake. He inspired me to be innovative, creative, and passionate. With his reassurance, I exceeded my own expectations. I was literally unafraid. Because I knew he always had my back, I soared under his leadership.
One day I made a terrible gaffe. While waiting for a meeting to start with all the radiologists, I pointed out an error on a bill that I thought was a small but humorous mistake. I did not realize that the same computer error had gone out to thousands of patients. After the meeting, Mr. Gannon called me to his office and asked me why I would humiliate him in that way. I was mortified. I was heartbroken. I tried to explain, and he told me to just go back to my office. I spent the next few hours worrying that I had shamed him, lost his faith in me, and that I was a terrible person. At some point, I realized that I was worrying more about what he thought of me than I was about how he felt, which was a humbling breakthrough for me. So now I just waited and took responsibility for my ignorance.
Finally, I looked up and he was standing there. He asked me to go for a walk, a common practice when we discussed marketing ideas. But this time he astonished me when he asked me for forgiveness! He apologized for being an old, prideful man. He added that he knew I had not embarrassed him on purpose. It was at this moment that I realized what an extraordinary man he was. He had the respect of the doctors, the hospitals, and the employees for his vision, his business skills, and his communication abilities. But his strength and humility were at the core of this man. He was a model of the qualities of what I call an enlightened leader. I dedicated my book to him, and though he passed on, I believe he knows that his story has inspired thousands of others.
During critical times in our national and world history, everyone agrees that we need strong leaders. Healthcare is clearly one of the most directly hit industries, with healthcare employees on the front lines, literally risking their lives daily. The surge of those contracting the virus is causing increased pressure on leaders who manage people, procedures, and the constant changes required to deal with this contagious disease. There are no simple answers, which is exactly why we need strong leaders we can trust to move us forward as swiftly and safely as possible. The fatigue and stress felt by people everywhere is intensified in healthcare.
Who You Are as a Leader
Being a leader of strength and humility is the key to guiding your team through troubled waters. An inner core of strength, rooted in love and affinity for others, is essential in these uncertain times. The deep wisdom from an infinite source needed to lead is not accessible to an artificial or weak leader. Doubt and fear are the underpinnings of ego-driven leaders and these leaders flail and collapse in a real crisis.
Humility is a trait that comes from alignment with the deepest, true self. Arrogance and superiority are attempts to mask insecurity and inner emptiness. When you lead from an ego, fear-based position, you impede communication and damage relationships. People who are genuinely supported tend to rise to the occasion, exceed expectations, and extend a caring attitude to patients and other employees. The calm reassurance of leaders rooted in a BE LOVE model of leadership is empowering in turbulent times. Great leaders shine a light on those they lead, in contrast to ego-driven leaders, who seek the spotlight for themselves.
Guidelines for Being a Leader of Strength and Humility
While there is no exact, linear path to great leadership--while working with leaders in a multitude of industries, studying, and writing about leadership--I found the following attributes in authentically empowered leaders:
Danna Beal, M.Ed., lives in the Seattle, WA area where she is an international speaker, author, retreat/workshop leader, and executive coach. She has spoken to thousands of businesses and conferences and has been on countless radio shows, podcasts, and webinars discussing “Enlightened Leadership” and “Workplace Culture” based on her book, “The Extraordinary Workplace: Replacing Fear with Trust and Compassion.” Her audiences and clients have included: Seattle Science Foundation--Spine Surgeons Grand Rounds, Swedish Hospital and Medical Groups, Kaiser Permanente Grand Rounds, Oakland, CA, AHRA, Orlando, FL, Federal Aviation Administration, Overlake Hospital Perioperative Conference, Radia, numerous physician practices and hospitals. Her website is www.dannabeal.com.