Recently, a family member experienced a medical crisis. Never have I been so glad to have the experience and skills I do working with organizations, leaders and teams. Working together with other family members, we helped someone we love through crisis. Looking through the lens of leadership, I’d like to share how the skills and attributes you engage in so naturally in business can help you save someone’s life.
- Strategist: Ask the doctor what the plan is, what the priority is and what events would call for re-evaluating the plan. This is where your leadership attribute of “strategist” comes into play. While the doctor forms the medical strategy, you can ensure it is sound and makes practical sense. Never ever let a technical expert or the medical environment, which can be overwhelming, make you doubt your own common sense.
- Diplomat: The nursing staff is the front-line of the hospital. And just like any company with a product or service, they have valuable information about what works and sometimes more experience than the doctors. Your leadership attribute of diplomat will come to bear here. The nurses can’t tell you when they disagree with a doctor. They do not have the power and authority the doctors have. You will need to be a diplomat and suss out their wisdom—read between the lines.
- Synthesizer: Because you know your family member, you have an intimate knowledge of what’s normal. It’s a baseline the medical staff doesn’t have. That’s where your leadership attribute of “synthesizer” will be your greatest asset. Bridge the gap for the medical team when you see improvements. Let them know when something is normal and unrelated to the medical event. It will help them tweak their care to adjust to your family member’s needs.
- Advocate: The hospital has many patients; you have one. This is where your leadership attribute of advocacy comes into play. You must be your patient’s advocate. Our family member rebounded astoundingly in the first few days. Then, due to complications, they began backsliding. At this point, you are drawing on your leadership skills of crisis communication as well. Your messaging needs to be outcome focused, clear and simple. It needs to be repeated to each staff member to help ensure everyone is on the same page. Conveying your sense of urgency without being an ass or an idiot is not only okay, it’s necessary.
- Servant-Leader. Probably the most important leadership attribute you can bring is that of servant-leader. You’ve entered a complex system that is already in motion. You can’t fix it and the people there are trying to do the best they can. Draw on this aspect in particular as defined by the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership:
“The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and
helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”
As I write to you now, we are experiencing the gift and joy of their recovery. But there wasn’t much that was easy or simple during the crisis phase. I’ve never worked harder or with such intensity. Some of it was harrowing.
If you’re in the middle of a medical crisis on behalf of someone you love, my thoughts are with you. Remember your leadership skills, the ones you were born with, that you’ve earned and honed. They are an extraordinary asset that can change the outcome.
When done from a place of servant-leadership, no matter what happens, you will have done so with grace, dignity and respect for life—for your loved one, your family and the health care professionals. That’s a legacy you and your family can be proud of.