With health care reform and payment model changes looming, there is a significant demand for the pioneers that are going to lead radiology into the future. Diagnostic Imaging spoke with James H. Thrall, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital at RSNA 2014 to gain some insight on what it takes to be a leader in radiology.
“To be a leader in radiology, you need to be an expert radiologist,” Thrall said. If leaders don’t know the subject, they won’t have any credibility, he explained. Skill set isn’t the only important characteristic, though. Thrall said leaders need to have the right values, and the understanding that leaders actually work for the people they are leading, in addition to the other way around.
Honesty and trust are also important traits for leaders, Thrall said. “A culture of trust can go a long way to solving problems and allowing different points of view to be expressed,” he said.
Even the most successful leaders make mistakes along the way, though. “One of the biggest mistakes that radiology leaders make is not understanding the expectations of the organizations with which they are affiliated,” Thrall said. It comes down to being mindful of one’s environment, which Thrall pegged as “organizational IQ.”
Not understanding or misunderstanding your environment doesn’t have to end a leader’s career, Thrall said. Becoming a leader takes time and preparation, so having an unsuccessful experience would mean, at the minimum, going back to square one and identifying what was missing the first time, he said.
Thrall acknowledged the wealth of opportunities for radiologists to learn about leadership. He cited the RSNA leadership courses, ACR Leadership Institute, and institute-specific programs that all focus on teaching leadership.
“People that would like to become leaders should look for opportunities to shadow current leaders, to sit-in on leadership deliberations…but one of the most important [factors] is understanding the motivation for leadership, does someone want to become a leader because it’s the next step in a career or because they really want to make things better?”