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It’s Not an Exact Science

By Maurizio Calcagni, MD

To lead a team successfully is not an easy task, and despite the numerous manuals and courses, it remains very complicated and up to the individual. Moreover, in the last two years, new challenges arose with COVID-related additional work, home-office, reduced access to in-person training and, maybe the most important, less personal contact. However, in my opinion, there are some aspects that remain the very base of leadership.

I try to include colleagues with different backgrounds and relate their contributions to the everyday activities and new projects of the team. It is not only a matter of gender or nationality, but also a matter of knowledge, perspectives, and personal skills. Diversity is an asset and should be supported carefully, making the best of different personalities and backgrounds through mutual respect and openness to different opinions. The team-leader has to be the example, supportive for all the other members, all while maintaining the desired direction. Surgeons have to make decisions multiple times every day, and each team member should know clearly what it is expected, the guidelines and the limits, and feel at ease to decide alone. Unspoken rules and limits will threaten one’s self-confidence with unexpected negative feedback and eventually undermine the team spirit. The rules can be challenged, but only when everybody is informed and with a follow-up process to evaluate the outcomes and improve the standards. Controlling is a big, fundamental part of the daily work of the team-leader to keep the group together and focused.

In conclusion, leadership isn’t an exact science. I like to see it as a mixture of being an example, giving direction, controlling the outcomes, and recognizing the contributions of each member.

Maurizio Calcagni, MD
Deputy Chairman, Dep. Plastic Surgery and Hand Surgery
University Hospital Zurich (Switzerland)

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