Practical Tips for Developing Leadership Skills Early in a Career


Leadership principle

Short summary


Establish a game plan

Write a purpose statement; set goals and revisit your goals to ensure you are staying on track


Be an opportunist

Look for opportunities in everyday tasks; fully engage in the mundane and maximize your participation


Optimize efficiency

Live in “day-tight compartments.” Use each minute of the day to accomplish the tasks that serve your long-term purpose


Be positive

See the positive in every situation; remember that people are hesitant to promote a negative person


Engage the team

Provide a clear vision; encourage your team; set new challenges; collaborate


Build a sense of identity

Create a team environment; let everyone know they are part of your team and are important to you.


Be selfless

Be the first to volunteer for tasks; do not ask others to do something you are not willing to do yourself


Get involved

Join societies and be an active member; volunteer for committees


Ask for help

Find your mentors and ask them for advice; delegate and followup on the task

8.2 Establish a Game Plan

Leadership in the first few years of training is about leading yourself. In order to achieve your goals, you must first define them. Take a look at the big picture and determine what you are passionate about. An individual is more likely to be successful if they are driven by a passion for the work they are doing. Once you have defined your area of interest, it may be useful to start developing a purpose statement. This statement should be simple and clearly describe the purpose of your career. This can help anchor you in the work you are about to undertake as well as aid in mapping out the goals you wish to accomplish.

Goal setting, both short- and long-term, is an important part of this process and should include a plan and a timeline to achieve the appropriate milestones. You may want to consider your goals in different aspects of your job. For example, you may want to write out your goals in the clinical, research, and educational arenas. It is also important to prioritize your goals. As you begin to work, make sure you put high priority items first and strive to achieve the early wins. Once you have these documents, be sure to file them in a place that you can revisit and even reconsider periodically to help you stay on track.

The objective of the above project is not to turn your passion into some mundane job but rather to ensure you are clear with your purpose. If you do not begin with the end in mind, you will never reach your goals [1]. No one is going to reach a major career accomplishment overnight. By breaking down your purpose statement into specific, attainable goals, you are more likely to build a rewarding career.

8.3 Be an Opportunist

Early on in one’s academic career things seem to be “done to you”. That is, many of the assignments you are given are not the result of you seeking out the opportunity, but rather because someone in your hierarchy has recommended you for the task. These duties might include being a member of a particularly tedious or busy committee. It is easy to see these types of activities as obligations. Your challenge is to see this as an opportunity to show your superiors that you are up to the task and that you will take on these challenges to the best of your ability [2]. Meeting these mundane demands with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic will not only look good, but it will also make the task much less tedious. Seeing these obligations as opportunities will ensure you have success early on in your career [2].

There are other benefits to these early assignments. They will help you gain more insight about how your institution or professional society functions so that you are better able to navigate the resources you will need to reach your own goals. You may also find that collaborating in this way will highlight areas in your own professional life that you will need to develop in order to be successful. Leading yourself implies that you are continually working on your weaknesses. Everyone has some part of themselves that they would like to change. Understanding and acknowledging these weaknesses early will be a key to your long-term success. Therefore, you must make a plan to work on it and strive to improve.

8.4 Optimize Efficiency

In 1913, Sir William Osler delivered an address to Yale students entitled, “A Way of Life” [3]. In this address, he urged the students to be successful by living for the day. He stated, “Now the way of life that I preach is a habit to be acquired gradually by long and steady repetition. It is the practice of living for the day only, and for the day’s work, life in day tight compartments.” Leading yourself involves living your life in the day-tight compartments described by Sir William Osler. The day-tight compartment philosophy encourages people to think about how to put each day into the context of your long-term goals. By maximizing your time to the fullest each day in this regard, you will ultimately reach those milestones.

Effective time management is intrinsic in learning to live your life in day-tight compartments. Essentially, this means that you are taking advantage of each minute to get work accomplished. However, efficiency is a skill that comes with experience, and you must continually assess your time and how it is used. This means you must be both in control of your schedule and adhere to it. While you may have an administrative assistant keeping your daily schedule and helping arrange both patient and academic appointments, you must be intimately involved in how that template is built and managed. Remember your assistant works to help you be more efficient, and (s)he will schedule based upon the parameters you set. Consider meeting with your assistant weekly and going over your schedule for the week. Be clear on what time can be used for meetings or clinical responsibilities, as well as what time you will be protecting for other academic projects. Make certain that your assistant sees the importance of this work; this individual can be an ally.

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May 26, 2018 | Posted by in GENERAL SURGERY | Comments Off on Practical Tips for Developing Leadership Skills Early in a Career

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