Every year at the end of January, ACR and ARP volunteers gather in Atlanta to learn more about a subject we seldom are taught in any formal way in our professional training: leadership.
The 2019 Leadership Development Conference took place on Saturday, Jan. 26 and offered participants a unique opportunity to step away from their everyday work as clinicians or researchers and focus on some questions that most of us rarely have much time to think about: What does it take to become an effective leader? What do we need to do to make good decisions in critical situations? And how do we cultivate some of the basic competencies of leadership within ourselves so we may excel in what we do, both at work and in our daily lives?
Our program this year featured Michael A. Roberto, DBA, trustee professor of management and director of the Center for Program Innovation at Bryant University College of Business, Smithfield, R.I., who spoke to us about the art of critical decision making. Dr.Roberto, who earned his doctorate from Harvard Business School, draws on lessons from history to illustrate how effective leaders think, collaborate and act—even in difficult situations when crucial decisions must be made quickly and with ambiguous information. Sound familiar? We have all been in these high-pressure situations.
According to Dr. Roberto, a leader is not just someone who makes the decisions on behalf of the team. A leader listens to the needs, ideas and concerns of everyone in that system to make informed decisions built on a foundation of trust and shared ideals. Problem solving, critical decision making and listening are essential skills for every effective leader to have, and they are skills that need to be refined and nourished throughout our careers. We face decisions all the time as rheumatologists, and each decision we make incorporates complex factors. Participants at the conference not only learned about the practical skills needed for effective leadership, but were also invited to embrace the idea that leadership is truly an art and not just a display of strength or outward confidence.
Dr. Roberto pointed out that leaders do not just lead the way, but they rely on their teams to help them make critical decisions in crunch situations and marshal the collective intellect and experience around them to make wise choices. Dr. Roberto talked about classic traps in decision making that can cause leaders to struggle. We may succumb to “group think” or try to please everyone in our organization. Or we may fail to share information effectively with all of our team members. Leaders who perceive themselves as the ultimate experts on a certain topic may become dogmatic, and these individuals cling to conventional wisdom (“that’s the way it has always been done”) despite contradictory evidence or clear signs of a changing environment.