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and I wanted to let you know what I have been up to,
Looking to the future
and that you fostered much of my early surgical inter-
est.” As I read further, I could feel my chest swelling
with pride, even though I struggled to remember any
details of our encounter. He concluded, “Thank you
for spending the time to make me feel comfortable
and for inspiring me. I will certainly pay that forward
in my future practice.”
I have kept his name confidential but have shared
excerpts from his note with staff, colleagues, nurses,
and hospital administrators. I use it as an example of
leading without a title and of how actions that we take
for granted—our daily routines of patient care—can be
inspirational to others. I don’t remember what types
of disease processes this young man saw or what pro-
cedures I performed while he shadowed me. I don’t
remember what cases I did on the day the thank you
note arrived in the mail. Because of its message, how-
ever, I am certain it was one of the best days I have had
in more than 23 years of surgical practice.
I believe there is much to be optimistic about in the
future of our profession. And because I have been
leading in my organization for many years without
a formal title, a new title doesn’t define me or inspire
me. But truthfully, if someone could come up with a
catchy title that rolls off the tongue and is even modestly hip, I would definitely use it. If it were up to me,
I would like to be called the chief of optimistic leadership, because it’s always hip to be “cool.” ♦
This article is based on a presentation that Dr. Wieland
gave at the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program 10th Annual National
Conference, July 25–28, 2015, in Chicago, IL.
Leaders don’t need titles to lead, but they do need to inspire those
around them to represent our profession in a positive way, ideally
attracting the next generation to surgery. One never knows where
the ripples from the casting out of a single stone will spread.