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Leadership Lessons From a Surgeon

Leadership Lessons From a Surgeon

by Angela McKnight
- Leadership, Listening, Patience

You might not think of surgery as an opportunity for learning about leadership, but last week I had a though-provoking experience with a surgeon that made me think about some characteristics of good leadership.

I went in for oral surgery, and, I must admit, although I do not tend to be a worrier, I was a bit apprehensive.  Let’s just say that, in the past, I have not done well with either anesthesia or pain medications during surgery.  I have had times when I was extremely sick for days afterwards.  So, needless to say, I was hoping for a better outcome this time around.

Here’s where the lesson about leadership comes in.  On the day of my surgery, the oral surgeon who operated on me demonstrated qualities of a good leader.  

As I was waiting for him, I had discussed my concerns with his assistant.  Apparently, she relayed those concerns to the surgeon when she went out of the room, because, when he came in, he proceeded to probe even further to glean more information about my past surgery experiences.  He demonstrated a desire to hear what I had to say.

Now, this doctor happens to be a very well-respected surgeon in our community with decades of experience. He could have simply proceeded with the surgery and relied on his own training and expertise.  Instead, he took the time to listen to my concerns so that he would be better informed for the task ahead.  

Point number one of good leadership:  a good leader listens to concerns.  

There is a definite lesson here for those of us in leadership.  Listening to the people around us and actually hearing their concerns can help us to be better leaders.  While we may have years of education, training, and experience, input from others may help us to better evaluate our current situation.  By listening, we may actually be better able to perform the task ahead, and the end result of our efforts will likely be more positive if we listen to the other people involved.  

Listening takes time.  It may not be convenient.  It may cause delays to our schedule or agenda.  As I sat in the surgery room last week relaying my concerns to the surgeon, I was certainly glad that he did not tell me that he didn’t have time to listen to my input.  In fact, he did not seem rushed or inconvenienced in any way by taking the time to listen to me.  He actually had a very calming demeanor about him as he listened to me, and, by listening attentively, he communicated a genuine concern for my well-being.

Point number two of good leadership:  a good leader is patient and caring.

For those of us with strong leadership personalities, we may have definite opinions about how things should be done.  We might find it hard to show genuine interest in other people’s ideas or concerns.  We might not be overflowing in the patience department.  

But just like my surgeon put my mind at ease with his patient and caring approach, we leaders can bring a sense of calm to those around us when we demonstrate sincere care for them and patiently engage them.  If listening doesn’t come easily, we may need to pray for patience to genuinely care for others in this way.

Think about it – these leadership characteristics were also demonstrated by Jesus consistently throughout His earthly ministry.  He was constantly spending time listening to people and engaging them in an unhurried manner.  He acknowledged peoples’ value by patiently giving of His time to listen to them and hear their concerns.  Even though He knows everything, He took the time to let people speak to Him, and He didn’t belittle them by hurrying them along.

By the way, my surgery went great!  I did not have any sickness or problems afterwards at all.  I am grateful to the surgeon for listening to me and patiently caring for me, and I am convinced that the outcome was better because of his approach.  

So, consider the lessons learned from my encounter.  As we lead, we can anticipate better outcomes if we listen to those around us and demonstrate both patience and genuine care for them.  Most importantly, that’s the example that Jesus demonstrated for us.

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