Vision and insight make a leader

November 29, 2004

Radiologists aspiring to deliver optimal patient care and become good leaders must develop a strategy, share their vision, empower a team, and lead by example, according to Dr. Tom Mahon of Kaiser Permanente in Honolulu.

Radiologists aspiring to deliver optimal patient care and become good leaders must develop a strategy, share their vision, empower a team, and lead by example, according to Dr. Tom Mahon of Kaiser Permanente in Honolulu.

In an education exhibit presented at the RSNA meeting, Mahon argues that all radiologists, from resident to department chair, have a leadership role to play. The quality of care, as well the patient's perception of that quality, depends on the radiologist's ability to lead.

Mahon listed five ingredients required for radiologists to succeed in a leadership role:

  • Vision. Be inspired by a vision that drives you to go beyond the minimum necessary and achieve excellence.

  • Insight. To learn from your mistakes, grow as a leader, and turn knowledge into wisdom, you must have personal insight and be honest with yourself.

  • Honorable intent. Physician leaders should have altruistic goals and act with integrity and consistency.

  • Clinical excellence. Dedication to patient care and clinical excellence are prerequisites for leadership. Unless team members respect you, they will not follow you and share your vision.

  • The right fit. The leader must be the right fit at the right time. Your set of skills, temperament, and goals need to be what is required and appropriate for the given situation.

Potential leaders need clear and achievable goals that are agreed upon by team members along with awareness of the obstacles and how they will be overcome, according to Mahon. Successful leaders' teams will have a mix of skills, support each other, and demonstrate passion.

Leaders must be superb communicators who interact with colleagues in a respectful and unemotional manner. They require capability to make decisions that are fair and in the interests of the team.

Mahon cited the leadership and team-building skills of Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen as a valuable model for success. In contrast, Captain Robert Scott from the U.K., who lost to Amundsen in the 1400-mile race to reach the South Pole in 1911, provides an example of bad leadership. Both men had a vision, but only Amundsen effectively shared that vision and had the appropriate plan, skills, and team to achieve success.