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2019 is Off to a Great Start. Taking a Leading Role.

by Jeff Patton, MD, CEO of Tennessee Oncology and President of Physician Services, OneOncology

Change is good. Much can happen in a year. Moving from a comfortable place to one with new paths, new experiences, and new goals is both challenging and invigorating at the same time. Good fortune is when you choose to change because the future belongs to those who adapt.

2019 will be a monumental year for all of us who are prepared for the future. I am excited.

Recently, I have spent a good deal of time pondering leadership. I’m a student and lifelong devotee of “servant leadership;” a leadership style that is well-suited for physicians. This M. Scott Peck quote succinctly articulates how to be a servant leader:

“Servant-leadership is more than a concept, it is a fact. Any great leader, by which I also mean an ethical leader of any group, will see herself or himself as a servant of that group and will act accordingly.”
― M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Author of The Road Less Traveled and People of the Lie

Many of us chose to become physicians because of our desire to serve. That same desire is also innate in those of us who have chosen a leadership path. When I encourage providers to take on leadership roles, I like to point out that while providers help one patient at a time, leaders can serve a boundless number of patients at once.

I’ve had the good fortune of learning and working with great leaders in my career. In my experience, the qualities that make an exceptional leader are first and foremost: honesty and integrity. This is non-negotiable; it all starts with building trust amongst your peers, the people that work for you, and the people you serve. Second: authentic communication pared with high emotional intelligence. Those with high EQ listen as much as they talk. Open dialogue encourages a culture of constant growth and improvement. Third and lastly: strong decision-making skills and the ability to execute. Having great ideas is important, but knowing how to execute with excellence will set you apart.

The same traits that define great leaders also define what it means to be a great physician. Servant-leadership takes this one step further. This quote has always served as a beacon in my own leadership journey: 

“Servant-leadership is all about making the goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up and doing whatever it takes to help people win. In that situation, they don’t work for you, you work for them.”Ken Blanchard
Management Expert and Author

In my first meeting with newly-hired physicians, I tell each one: Please treat me like I work for you. My job is to help you to be as successful as possible. Together our job is to treat each and every patient who comes through our doors like they are family because that’s how we would want to be cared for if we were in their situation.

Servant leadership is about putting others’ needs ahead of your own and supporting their growth.

Healthcare needs more physician leaders and more servant leaders. I hope many of you will consider taking on these positions. 2019 is already off to a great start. Take a leading role and define the year for yourself!

Happy New Year and thanks for everything you do.