I’ve been off work almost a year now on medical leave, trying to recover from four neurosurgeries within three years that have still left me in constant pain. Before that I was a Team Leader for several years. I wasn’t a fabulous one. I tried, but I have a love/hate relationship with leadership. I want to be in charge, I love to make a plan and follow it through, but I despise being held responsible for anyone else’s behavior. Therefore, I can’t delegate worth diddly-squat. Thankfully, nearly all my team members were hard-working, responsible, self-motivated people who really didn’t need me much except as someone to keep tabs on their paperwork and someone they could freely vent to about the frustrations of the job. I was great at both of those things.
I’ve always been a huge Star Trek fan, both the original and Next Generation, so it made perfect sense to me when I linked up to Dianna‘s Saints and Scripture Sunday meme with a scripture from Isaiah and a post about Jean Luc Picard. But now I think I probably caused her to spit coffee all over her keyboard. She’s a good sport, though, so she tweeted out links to the post, and even sent me a link to a post called Five Leadership Lessons from Jean Luc Picard, written by Alex Knapp for Forbes. It’s genius. He also wrote a post called Five Leadership Lessons from James T. Kirk, because, in all seriousness, you can’t discuss one without discussing the other. I’m a Picard fan through and through, though, just ask my husband. I drink coffee during the week, but if he’s making tea on Sunday morning and asks me if I’d like a cup often as not I won’t even look away from my computer screen when I say, “tea, Earl Grey, hot.”
But I digress. Let’s get back to leadership styles. Here are Picard’s five lessons as per Knapp’s post, and my take on them in the medical field, since being a nurse is the only career I know.
- Speak to people in the language they understand (or It’s OK to threaten a Klingon). This one’s a sticky wicket, as a friend of mine used to say. I was raised to always be nice to people, even if they weren’t nice to me. Well-brought-up Southern girls do not raise their voice in public and certainly do not swear. When you’re working with someone who screams at people constantly, uses the f-bomb so often I’d sometimes forget the topic of conversation because I was distracted by all the terms of speech he could make from that one work (noun, verb, adverb, gerund phrase. . .) and occasionally throws things – well, it’s stressful. And once I discovered (after losing my temper one day and raising my voice to him) that behaving the way he behaved was what earned his respect, well, I knew I really didn’t want to have to have to throw things at people every day to be taken seriously. And since one of my responsibilities was teaching new employees how to deal with him and others with similar “quirks” I just had to be honest and let each person handle it in their own way.
- When you’re overwhelmed, ask for help. Yeah, I totally bombed on this one. Assuming I ever get a chance to go back to work I won’t make the same mistake. In my defense, I did work closely with someone for several years who, when asked to help out (actually I was just asking her to do her own job) would make a point of telling others that I wasn’t capable of doing my job. Fun days, those.
- Always value ethical actions over expedient ones. I do think I did well in this arena. Good patient care came first, and I’d do whatever it took to make that happen. Most nurses are the same way – we’ll come in early, stay late, never take a lunch break, all for the sake of giving good patient care.
- Challenge your team to help them grow. I don’t know if I did well in this area or not. I tended more to want to protect my team, and advocate for them. Sometimes I felt like they were under constant attack from people who didn’t understand how hard they worked, and I wanted to be their first line of defense. Did that help them grow? I don’t know. Maybe some day I’ll be brave enough to ask one of them.
- Don’t play it safe – seize opportunities in front of you. I think I did this – perhaps even too often. Because once you seize those opportunities they’re yours, for better or worse. I’m very proud of some programs and policies that I created, implemented, and revised as necessary; but when the system breaks down (and the system always breaks down at some point) I was the one who got the call and was expected to pull a spare nurse or doctor out of my pocket, usually at 6am on a Sunday.
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