Leadership Lived Out Program Positions Residents to Succeed

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There’s more to becoming a surgeon than learning surgical skills. At the Department of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences, we recognize that training must include continued development of leadership qualities that are vital to the holistic care of patients. Leadership qualities help deal with the stressors that come with being a surgeon and a member of a high-functioning healthcare team. 

Since 2013, we’ve invited trainees—as well as staff, nurses, physician assistants, ancillary professionals, and physicians from other disciplines—to participate in the Leadership Lived Out program.

Building Emerging Leaders 

Leadership Lived Out focuses on improving patient care by examining who we are and how we interact with patients and with one another as a healthcare team. 

Participants engage in leadership development seminars on issues such as problem solving, decision making, self-awareness, empathy, motivation, and empowerment.

Samuel Antonji, MD, a chief resident in 2022-23, says the program addresses a vital need. “As a physician, you will find yourself in a leadership role regardless of whether you seek it out—your patients, your less experienced colleagues, and your community will look up to you as a leader by virtue of your role. It is critical to put deliberate effort and practice into honing these skills so that you can serve these populations."

It’s well-established that leadership skills can be trained over time, but in many other training programs this process has been typically more haphazard than intentional. 

Through interviews with residents from our program and others, we learned that residents developed their leadership skills primarily through trial and error and from role models. Additionally, we found that leadership-specific feedback was scarce, leaving residents to rely on informal interpersonal cues to modify their performance. 

“Physicians are expected to be leaders but very few of us undergo formal leadership training,” says Dehra McGuire, MD, a chief resident in 2022-23. “I think leadership is a skill that can and should be developed just like our surgical skills.”

A Structured Leadership Development Program

Our goal was to establish a sustainable and agile educational program to develop our leadership skills and gain a better understanding of the department’s core values.

“The program takes a multifaceted approach that teaches you to self-evaluate all the individualized aspects of leadership so that you can shape your own growth, rather than providing a prescriptive process or approach that would fall short in real-world applications,” Dr. Antonji says.

Leadership Lived Out is based on the Professionalism Intelligence Model, incorporating three important components:

  • Cognitive intelligence
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Leadership intelligence

In addition to facilitating thought-provoking discussions with peers, the program also provides a comprehensive evaluation of leadership skills across domains, utilizing anonymous feedback from direct reports, peers, and supervisors (for example, 360 evaluation). 

 “The assessment and its analysis provided an excellent framework for me to continue my growth as a leader well beyond the limits of our formal curriculum,” Dr. Antonji says.  

Importantly, the Department of Head and Neck Surgery & Communications Sciences is one of the few training programs to offer an explicit formalized leadership curriculum including didactics, discussions, leadership assessment, and coaching for residents. 

We’re especially proud that the program has been supported in part by generous donations from a number of patients — the very people we are focused on as a team in the department. 

Dr. McGuire believes the program was worth the effort.

“Before this course, I think I really underestimated how much my demeanor affected the morale and mindset of the group. It's something I've worked on personally and have noticed that it has led to a more positive working environment,” she says. 


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