What comes to mind when you think of a leader? Do you think of Nelson Mandela? Or maybe you thought of Lao Tsu, a Chinese philosopher and the founder of Taoism. Regardless of who entered your mind when I first posed the question, what we fail to realize is that we are all leaders in one way or another in our respective health professions. Think about that for a minute. When you go into work daily, whether you are a psychiatrist or a physiotherapist, your aim is to deliver care that will translate into the well-being of the patient. This requires empowering the patient to follow your advice and treatment.
Being a leader not only occurs on the treatment front but also in the relationships with your colleagues. This is crucial especially when dealing with colleagues that you rely on to carry out a certain procedure or treatment. Let me give you an example. At the clinic that I work in, I rely on two different sets of individuals for entirely separate functions. One group is the treatment staff comprising of kinesiologists and physiotherapy assistants. The second group is the front-desk staff. The idea with both groups is to empower them to understand how their work makes a difference in the patients’ health.
As you can appreciate, empowerment in these two circumstances takes two entirely different approaches. It is relatively easier for the treatment staff to be empowered as they directly carry out the treatment with the patient. The gratification is sometimes instantaneous. On the other hand, the front desk staff are not directly involved in the treatment. They are rarely appreciated on the same level as are treatment providers. However, they certainly are responsible for the patients’ well-being in many ways.
The question I pose to you is how do you empower the front-desk staff? How do you make them believe that they are making a huge difference? You deal with this regularly at work. The key is acknowledgement of the role they play in delivering care. Leadership is about awareness; awareness of the role of the people around you, and that includes everybody. It may be a family member of a client, a person that books appointments for you, or a member of your treatment team, e.g. a nurse. So next time you walk into your work place take a closer look at the people that make your organisation happen, and don’t forget to acknowledge their valuable role.
Starting the process of empowerment requires an understanding of what it means to be a leader. In my next posting, I will introduce you to some different definitions of a leader and how you can mould yourself to ensure that you get the best out of your co-workers, sometimes even without them knowing it!
Finally, a quote from a person I introduced in the first line – Lao Tsu: “To lead people, walk beside them. As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honour and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate. When the best leader’s work is done the people say, we did it ourselves!”
Written by WASP
WASP is a proactive and visionary leader working as a director in private health care. He currently sits on two different health committees and is overseeing the development of a leadership curriculum in the physiotherapy profession.