YPL 2015 Day 2

Berlin, Germany

DAY 2: 10 October 2015

Today it was down to business. The IAMP Young Physician Leader (YPL) training workshop kicked off in earnest. Jo Boufford, New York Academy of Medicine and IAMP YPL project leader, got the ball rolling by asking the assembled 19 YPL what their goals for the workshop were.

“Networking and sharing knowledge,” said one, “Opportunities for collaboration,” said others. Worthy ambitions for such a group, but then the comments started to reflect more closely the leadership aspect of the programme:

How young professionals can improve how they deal with their seniors. How to manage effectively within the limits of their actual position in their institutional hierarchy. How to improve project management and people management skills.

It soon became clear to the participants – who came from 17 countries across five continents – that despite geographical and cultural differences, many of the challenges faced by the YPL are common. For example, they are all trained in a medical field, at this stage in their careers they are all taking on more and more management and leadership responsibilities, but none of them have received training in this regard.

Indeed, Joseph Doyle from Australia noted that he had acquired a leadership position almost by default, taking on more and more responsibility without any recognition of the role from his seniors.

And discussions within another breakout group revealed that: “The situation in France and Sri Lanka is very similar,” as Helene Rossinot from France explained. “Everyone wants to be a leader, but no-one wants to take responsibility.”

“In Latvia,” said Martins Kalejs, “No-one wants to be a leader – except maybe in politics – so the leaders emerge almost against their wills.”

From there, the workshop looked at different leadership styles, from the traditional ‘Big Man’ theory that says that leaders are born not made, to the different grades of leadership styles between authoritative to democratic. In the authoritative situation a leader may say: “These are our goals, we’ll get there my way.” In contrast, in a more democratic situation, a leader would take the views and aspirations of colleagues into account and make decisions by consensus. One disadvantage of this extreme is that it can be slow to react to emerging challenges and, as time goes on, progress may deviate from the initial vision.

The YPL analysed their own situations and experiences along this continuum, even noting that in different situations they might use different styles of leadership.

Olayinka Atilola from Nigeria confirmed: “What people look at more is not whether a particular style of leadership is negative or positive – but whether, by the end of the day, the work gets done.”

“So you have realized that there is a complexity in this,” noted Jo Boufford. “No single style will work all the time. If you find a style that is good for you, can you bring it into situations that are atypical? “

One way round this is to take a “view from the balcony” – another leadership technique whereby, in a tense or complex situation, the YPL were encouraged to perform the mental trick of stepping back, out of the ‘conflict zone’, and analyzing the situation from another perspective (hence the ‘balcony above the thronging dance floor’ analogy).

Later in the day, the focus shifted as three invited guests, all leaders in their own field, shared their experiences with the YPL. Jose Otavio Auler (Brazil), Dragan Ilic (Australia) and IAMP executive committee member from Switzerland, Thomas Zeltner, along with Jo Boufford, each gave a frank overview of their own career path, focusing especially on those critical moments of change when different options became available.

“Until age 35, I was on an academic track as a medical doctor and lawyer and then into public health,” said Thomas Zeltner. I went to the Harvard School of Public Health for 5 years and had just been told that I could stay for another five years when I received call from largest university hospital in Switzerland, who wanted me to be the head. It was the toughest decision of my professional career. Do you want to be on the side that describes what happens, i.e. academia – or to be someone who changes things? I decided to accept position. Three years later I was offered the position of Secretary for Health in Swiss government with responsibility for running a national health system and interacting internationally. It was certainly rewarding, being on the side that can make positive changes.”

Pattawaralai Talungchit, Thailand, asked Dragan Ilic if, as someone from a non-medical background who had built up a medical teaching programme, did he run into difficulties getting accepted?

“No,” he replied. “With networking, making and maintaining contacts, you can develop acceptance. You should realize your own limitations and remedy any deficits with others’ expertise. I had to convince others, such as the clinicians, to get on board. By working with others, you can also increase your publication output, even if you are not first author on many of the papers. This can be important for young people early in their careers, too”

Jose Auler, dean of the largest teaching hospital in Latin America, also encouraged the YPL to study abroad, especially those from developing countries that might have more difficulty in following their field of specialisation.

“It is inspiring,” he said. “You also establish a network for future with peers outside your own country. I always encourage my students to make some kind of international exchange.”

The day ended with the YPL being challenged to develop their own personal leadership plans: to choose a particular leadership behavior they would like to improve and to consider how to do so, who would actually notice, what they might have to give up the effect the change, and also the strengths they bring to the change.