By - November 16, 2022
Leadership is perhaps the most misunderstood word in any work environment. It is arguably one of the most observed, yet least understood phenomena on Planet Earth.1 The bitter truth is that every one of us has led or is leading, in one form or another. No one comes by leadership by accident. It involves careful engagement of deliberate learning and training. Good leaders identify what others are unable to see, and act accordingly, putting into action that which perhaps would not be possible without the vision of leaders. Seasoned leaders also have the ability to navigate through rough waters. They are able to help their subordinates overcome their challenges in tough times.
It is increasingly accepted, however, that in order to be a good leader, one must have experience, knowledge, commitment, patience, and most importantly the skill to negotiate and work with others to achieve common goals. Good leaders are thus made, not born. Many hold the erroneous belief that leaders are born. Good leadership is developed through a never-ending process of self-study, education, training, and the accumulation of relevant experience.2
Daniel Golman argued that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: they all have high level of emotional intelligence.3 He demonstrated that emotional intelligence is the most vital ingredient of leadership. One can have the best education and training, but still be unable to lead effectively. Emotional intelligence has been shown to be related to effective performance in great leaders. What differentiates them is not IQ or technical skills, says Golman, but emotional intelligence, which comprises five skills that enable the best leaders to maximize their own and their followers’ performance.
Those five skills are as follows:
Even if we assume that everyone has some of these skills, they can be strengthened through persistence, practice, and feedback from colleagues or coaches.
Now that we have carefully enumerated what makes a good leader, I want us to look at the requirements for sustainable leadership. A few years back, I found it very fascinating to learn that subordinates tend to trust their leaders regardless of the situation. In his book on leadership, John Maxwell claims that a person’s trustworthiness is a function of four factors: honesty, reliability, competence, and compassion.4
Knowing these four factors helps me understand why I trust some people more than others. Guiding myself with these factors helps my efforts to become a more trusted leader.
Honesty: This is the backbone of trust. While it is very difficult for people to believe someone who tells lies, honesty is more than just not telling lies. People who are honest find it very difficult to deceive people, regardless of what is at stake. They are truthful, and that ensures their motives are transparent.
Reliability: A reliable person is someone who can be depended on to ensure a desired assignment will be completed. This requires courageous commitment to ensure that the goal is reached. Honesty and reliability are important to building trust in relationships.
Competence: The ability of an individual to accomplish one’s goals, is a function of knowledge, skills, attitudes, relationships, and sound judgment. While it is possible to trust less-competent staff members, it is very difficult to trust less-competent leaders, especially in a profession such as medical laboratory science, in which the lives of patients depend on laboratory findings.
Compassion: I believe leaders with compassion make a great difference in any organization. Compassionate leaders pay attention to individual needs of their staff members. They go above and beyond in ensuring a safe work environment and indicate ways to help staff manage work stress for maximum output of service.
Your knowledge as a leader is based on experience, both past and present, the latest news from your establishment, and how you use it to educate your staff. Just knowing something isn’t enough; knowledge is all about the balance between knowing and doing. And as medical laboratory professionals, we have to practice what we preach, even if it is not popular.
Finally, leaders in the laboratory profession must be ready to shepherd the new generation of medical laboratory professionals with passion for new discoveries and adaptability to change. All indications are that the new generation of laboratory professionals tends towards the use of technology more than never before. New leaders must therefore be ready to adapt to change in order to be relevant and effective. Leadership has to take place every day as one builds emotional intelligence, new ideas, and resilience.
Clinical Chemistry Lead Scientist with the Federal Medical Center in Butner, NC