Inever worried about not having a title in my organi- zation until one was given to me. Shortly after fin- ishing a master’s program in health care management at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA,
I was asked to be the first director of surgical services
at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, Bloomington, IL.
I was flattered by the offer and readily accepted,
both emotionally and contractually. In the back-and-forth of the paperwork, I found myself reflecting on
my new title and its acronym—DOSS, which sounded
like obsolete computer language. I approached hospital
administrators and asked for a more descriptive title.
“Oh, it’s funny you mentioned that, Dr. Wieland,” they
said. “We were thinking about making the new position a manager-level job, and we could call you the
manager of surgical services.” Mentally translating the
new acronym into MOSS, it didn’t seem like much of an
improvement. I countered that one of my main responsibilities would be leadership development, and they
offered me the title of manager of leadership development—MOLD. I had gone from a plant to a fungus. I
submitted that, although leadership development was
important, this new role was about increasing physician engagement. I also mentioned that it was widely
accepted that surgeons have never responded well to
the idea of being managed. To their credit, the hospital
leadership team returned the role to director status,
and offered to make me director of physician engagement—DOPE. Admittedly, I had been called worse,
but I refused to stop there.
In this new position, I acknowledged that both lead-
ership development and physician engagement were
vital to the institution’s success. Together, I offered,
these concepts are about aligning resources within the
organization. Seeing their heads nodding in agreement,
I may have then gone too far. I mentioned that the hos-
pital leadership team members all had the term chief
in their titles (chief executive officer, chief operating
officer, chief medical officer, and so on), and this desig-
nation would perhaps command the highest measure of
respect from my colleagues. Sure enough, the admin-
istration proposed the title of chief resource alignment
physician. You can work that one out on your own.
It is said the first thing to do when you’ve dug yourself into a hole is to stop digging. Although this story is
tongue-in-cheek, its message is important—leadership
is not about titles. In health care, leadership is about
motivating and even inspiring people to work together
toward organizational goals and improve the lives of
our patients. Leadership is about creating emotional
buy-in and commitment and working harder for a
greater purpose. A title is unnecessary; what is necessary is conviction, communication, and collaboration.
This article looks at all three key elements of effective
leadership and offers personal examples of how they
function in today’s health care environment.
I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone
across the waters to create many ripples.
I keep a plaque with this quote from Mother Theresa
on the wall of my office as a reminder of the effects
of my actions—both intended and unintended—and
because it invokes pleasant memories of role models
• Asserts that physicians from various backgrounds and
cultures respond to leadership styles differently
• Provides guidelines for leadership
development and physician engagement
• Describes conviction of purpose, communication, and
collaboration as traits of productive, inclusive leaders