NERVES: Leadership Insights

J. Todd Barnes
J. Todd Barnes

It’s said that some are born to lead, while circumstances thrust others into leadership. I have had both the pleasure and the displeasure of working with leaders both good and bad. The good ones always made it look so easy. It is clear from various subject matter experts that leaders set the direction, but not necessarily how to get there. Leadership is the where and management is the how. To execute the leader’s vision, the leader must first have the confidence of those they lead. Good leaders empower people to move the leader’s vision forward towards a shared goal. They use phrases starting with “we,” not “I,” and look beyond themselves for the greater good. They don’t explain things to people, they discuss issues and problems with colleagues and co-workers.

Many think that to lead, a person needs title and position. This statement could not be further from the truth. There are leaders at every level of an organization. John Maxwell, a famous author of many books on leadership, clarifies, “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” I am sure many of you have had the joy of working with a leader that may not have had a title to go along with their influence. These tend to be the people you gravitate to and hold in high value in the day-to-day execution of your duties.

The good leaders that I have had the privilege to work with have had varying styles, but one trait is the building block for any leader to lead: Trust. Trust is like a savings account. It is built over time, when the leader shows competence with their skills, but most importantly, that they genuinely care for those they lead. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. The more turbulent the times, or larger the change, the more trust the leader must earn.

In my years working with NERVES and the CNS, I have had the opportunity get to know many leaders, both administrators and physicians, and I try to glean wisdom and skills from all that I come in contact. They all have varying styles, be it Dr. Clarence Watridge’s calm, comforting, and unflappable demeanor, to Dr. Alan Scarrow’s wit, vision, and oratory skills, which serve them both well in their varying styles of leadership. I have also had the privilege to work with Mary Cloninger from Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates who is great at seeing opportunity and setting a course to achieving a desired outcome, and Derek Cantrell of Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine, who always thoughtfully analyzes all the angles and issues that surround a decision. Their styles also serve them well in their respective organizations.

By the nature of their training, physicians are looked at as leaders when it comes to patient care and the settings that are involved in it, and for good reason. Some physicians carry this responsibility very well, while others have trouble seeing past themselves or the context of the larger picture. But a funny thing happens to people when you expect great things from them—they will surprise you and perform at levels much greater than you or they thought possible. Even when there are legitimate problems that need to be addressed, true leaders are able to find a constructive way to address them.

As administrators and as physicians, get involved in helping shape health care policy and direction in your practice setting and within in legislature, both locally and nationally, by lobbying for both your profession and your patients. Neurosurgery Executives’ Resource Value & Education Society (NERVES) is an organization comprised of administrators and managers of neurosurgery practices across the United States. They manage all areas of neurosurgery, including hospital-based, private, and academic practices.

One of the many benefits of NERVES membership is access to the online listserv for all members. This listserv is a forum where any administrator or manager can ask questions of the entire membership and receive suggestions from other experienced members. It is a very active community with many daily posts. If your practice’s manager or administrator is not a member of NERVES, we hope you will support or encourage them to join. Membership information can be found on the NERVES website: nervesadmin.com

AS ADMINISTRATORS AND AS PHYSICIANS, GET INVOLVED IN HELPING SHAPE HEALTH CARE POLICY AND DIRECTION IN YOUR PRACTICE SETTING AND WITHIN IN LEGISLATURE, BOTH LOCALLY AND NATIONALLY, BY LOBBYING FOR BOTH YOUR PROFESSION AND YOUR PATIENTS.