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Great Leaders Are Everywhere

By Kenneth W. Donohue, MD

Leadership comes in many forms. It is a quality that we look for in people applying to our residencies and fellowships, and is prerequisite to advancement within our institutions and professional societies. Although the concept of leadership is obvious, defining what makes a great leader is more difficult. I have encountered many leadership styles during my training and early career, and I do not pretend to be an expert on the subject. I will, however, share a few observations that shape my own approach to leadership.

Great leaders are humble. They have a passion for the subject matter that supersedes their desire to be defined as a leader. They are objective. They apply the same measure of scrutiny to their own techniques and outcomes as they apply to others. They are inclusive. They recognize others who contribute to their success, acknowledge them, and elevate them to their full potential. Great leaders are constantly pursuing perfection. In this pursuit, they analyze, they innovate, they teach, and they inspire.

My path to academic hand and upper extremity surgery began 10 years ago, when two hand surgeons at Shriners Hospital took the time to mentor me as a young trainee.  Despite their national prominence, they were approachable and had an innate desire to teach. They were passionate about hand surgery and were surrounded by a team of equally passionate therapists, prosthetists, nurses, and doctors. This experience had a profound impact on me and is most responsible for my decision to pursue an academic career in upper extremity surgery.

I approach leadership with this experience in mind, understanding that the most important form of leadership is sometimes the least visible. Great leaders are not just found at the podium. They can be found everywhere. They lead in the operating room and the office. They lead in institutions large and small. They are the ambassadors of our field and inspire the next generation with the passion that we all share. They build great teams where the importance of each team member is recognized and valued. Through these actions great leaders leverage their own talents as well as the talents of everyone around them. This enables them to achieve outcomes once thought impossible, forever advancing our field for the betterment of our patients.

Kenneth W. Donohue, MD
Hand & Upper Extremity Surgery
Yale Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation
Assistant Professor, Yale School of Medicine

Comment (1)
Robert Hendrikson
September 9, 2021 11:11 pm

Great essay


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