It’s often said that good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. However, leadership requires more than just good judgment and experience.
We’ve all grown up observing leaders, from our homes and family life, our teachers, historical figures, and even those in film and television. Probably the most influential leaders we remember are the ones for whom we have worked. We cherish the time spent serving with phenomenal bosses, but we must also hold dear the times we’ve served with those who sometimes miss the mark. It’s important to examine their traits, study their ways, and vow to never repeat their bad habits. Some of our very best learning comes from serving under truly horrible bosses.
True leaders aren’t born, self-made, or self-appointed. They’re cultivated, nurtured, and helped to mature, and have gained the necessary education and experience to help them inspire the best in others.
Working Your Way Up
There is much in the literature about the benefits of military service and how some of the best leaders have served in the military. The reason is quite simple: To advance in the military, you must study and acquire the experience and knowledge to prove your worthiness. For example, a colonel in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army doesn’t simply become one without at least completing the Command and General Staff College, serving time as a battalion surgeon, commanding a battalion, or by being a residency program director. It takes at least 16 to 18 years of education, practice, and experience to attain the rank of colonel.
The same is true for a department chair, a medical school dean, member of a board of trustees, or a member of the ACEP Board of Directors or ACEP Council Officer. You don’t become a department chair by just showing up, or become the President of the United States because you’ve watched all the seasons of The West Wing or House of Cards. You must first prove to be a good follower, as you cannot properly lead without knowing how to be an effective follower.
It’s without question that if ACEP members wish to consider higher college leadership, they must cultivate their skills beyond just their everyday jobs. You don’t become an ACEP board member without at least progressing through the ranks at the chapter level, participating on committees, and being a Councillor, in addition to experiencing life as a staff physician, medical director, or chair. If you’ve ever considered leadership in the ACEP, there is guidance available to help you get more involved.
Nurturing ACEP Leadership
The Leadership Development Advisory Group (LDAG) was introduced at the 2011 ACEP Council meeting. Consisting of past ACEP leaders, the LDAG strives to identify young ACEP members with leadership potential and mentor and guide them through their maturation in the college. “The Grid,” similar to that used by the U.S. Army Medical Corps’ active life cycle and utilization, was also introduced (see Figure 1). The Grid serves as a guide, rather than requirements, for those who wish to rise through the ACEP ranks. It lists some of the vital milestones necessary to be a viable and productive council officer or board member.
Prior to the LDAG’s formation, the ACEP Nominating Committee had the onerous task of contacting dozens of individuals to entice them to run for an elected position. This is inherently wrong because a nominating committee shouldn’t influence future leaders, and ideally, the right individual shouldn’t have to be asked to run for a leadership position. He or she should already know when they’re ready. Most importantly, it’s hoped that future leaders will have the tenacity, motivation, and courage to submit their own nomination or to ask their component body to submit the nomination on their behalf.
Thankfully, those days are long past. Since the LDAG’s inception, we’re seeing many self-nominations, a marker of the LDAG’s efforts and success. Today, the Nominating Committee’s primary role is to vet the ever-increasing number of nominations submitted.
In addition to staying in contact with “A-list potentials,” LDAG members continue to reach out to individuals and mentor them in their leadership skills. A very important aspect of the process is the ability to recognize greatness in future leaders who may not be aware of their own hidden potential. At present, the LDAG and the National/Chapter Relations Committee are working together to improve member leadership resources available through the ACEP website.
One extremely difficult challenge involves maintaining a high level of diversity amongst our leadership. Diversity in our college isn’t just about gender and ethnicity, but also about chapter size and geographic location, and professional background (i.e., academics or democratic groups or big contract groups, experience in billing and coding or reimbursement issues, experience in advocacy, or in other association leadership).
The LDAG has a comprehensive list of councilors who they are guiding toward future high-level college leadership. But the LDAG’s work goes beyond the council: Any ACEP member can ask for leadership training and guidance. Please feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sonja Montgomery, CAE, governance operations director (email@example.com) for more information on the resources available.
Dr. Coppola is chair of the ACEP Leadership Development Advisory Group. Ms. Montgomery is governance operations director for ACEP.
Marco’s Leadership Reading List
Field Manual 6-22 (FM 22-100) Army Leadership: Competent, Confident, and Agile
The Articulate Executive; Learn to Look, Act and Sound Like a Leader.
Granville N Toogood.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
Stephen R Covey
10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management
Hyrum W Smith
Principle Centered Leadership
Stephen R Covey
The Mafia Manager: A Guide to the Corporate Machiavelli
Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun
Patton on Leadership: Strategic Lessons for Corporate Warfare
Leadership Sopranos Style: How to Become a More Effective Boss