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Leadership is heuristic, not algorithmic, but who manages uncertainty better than us?

Fam Pract Manag. 2023;30(5):6

In this issue of FPM, we talk a lot about leadership (see the articles on pages 15 and 44). Over the years, I've learned that good leaders have several things in common. They listen and value input. They have an ability to engage and influence others. And they work for the best interest of the whole organization.

You know what that sounds like a job description for? A family physician. The nature of what we do makes us leaders by default. Leadership is a skill, and like most skills it can be developed. But I'll let you in on a little secret: I don't like leadership retreats or leadership workshops. Recently, I was surprised with how negatively I reacted when I opened an email that started out, “Hello all! We hope you are getting excited and looking forward to our executive leadership retreat next weekend!”

No, I wasn't excited!

When one finds oneself with strong feelings on a topic, it's helpful to stop and look at the “why” behind the emotion. I learned that technique at the leadership retreat, by the way, after discussing a really good management book, The Human Element.1 It explains why a good idea (“the fuel”) might never get traction (“the friction”) and how a leader learns to identify and overcome barriers. I won't spoil it, so go read it. But this sounds a lot like what we do with patients, doesn't it?

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