ACR Bulletin

Covering topics relevant to the practice of radiology

Leading With Heart

The possession of emotional competency can make a great leader — and a successful radiology practice.
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The difference between great leaders and deficient ones is the possession of emotional competence.

—Scott Taylor, MBA, PhD
November 15, 2018

PHOTO CAPTION: ACR RFS Secretary Nathan M. Coleman, MD, RFS Chair Daniel Ortiz, MD, and RFS Education Liaison Patricia Balthazar, MD, left the 2018 RLI Summit with a deeper understanding of several of the biggest challenges facing healthcare and radiology today. 

Arnel Pineda was a bar and club singer working in Manila in 2007 when he was approached by Neal Schon, the guitarist from Journey. Schon had seen Pineda’s videos on YouTube and was impressed by the singer’s voice, humility, and stage presence. Almost overnight, the once homeless young man from the Philippines transformed into Journey’s new frontman, catapulted to stardom, and amassed a fortune with a net worth estimated in the neighborhood of $15 million.

How does someone of Pineda’s background suddenly end up on the pinnacle of success? That was the question Scott Taylor, MBA, PhD, associate professor of organizational behavior at Babson College, posed during the opening session at the 2018 Radiology Leadership Institute® (RLI) Summit in Wellesley, Mass. The answer, according to Taylor, lies with the fact that Pineda led the band with heart. When Schon went looking for Pineda, Journey was on the brink of obscurity. The band had been searching high and low for the right voice to fill the void left by singer Steve Perry. Pineda’s ability to sing with soul and emotion (by drawing from his impoverished background) put Journey’s music in front of a new generation of fans.

“The difference between great leaders, like Pineda, and deficient ones is the possession of emotional competence,” said Taylor, during the annual meeting of radiology’s best and brightest. In Taylor’s session, titled “Leading with Social and Emotional Competence,” he noted that emotional competence involves making a connection with colleagues. “Human beings are not objects,” said Taylor. “You can’t just act upon humans and expect results. To be effective, you must first make a human bond. If not, you will get resistance, rejection, rebellion, and then revolution from your team.”

Features of burnout have been described as feelings of inadequacy combined with callousness or apathy toward patients and peers.

Time spent getting to know your team can also be critical to avoiding burnout, added Alexander M. Norbash, MD, FACR, summit co-director and professor and chair of radiology at the University of California, San Diego. According to Norbash, effective leaders are attuned to the needs of others and inspire positive emotions, much like Pineda did. “As a leader our job is to activate the potential of others,” said Norbash. “You have to be optimistic to be an effective leader. No one wants to follow a leader that has a bleak outlook on the future.”

Cheri L. Canon, MD, FACR, chair of radiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine, agreed. Canon, who facilitated Taylor’s session, pointed to recent research that shows U.S. physicians have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. In addition, the number of physician suicides is currently more than twice that of the general population. According to Canon, one way to combat the problem is to tackle the issue of burnout, which can lead to depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Features of burnout have been described as feelings of inadequacy combined with callousness or apathy toward patients and peers. Canon noted that developing one’s resiliency is only one part of the burnout solution. Institutional factors are a huge contributor to physician burnout and must be addressed as well.

One suggestion Canon proposed is that leaders develop a positive mindset to help alleviate burnout. “Psychology determines one’s success in the workplace,” said Canon. “Developing a mindset of gratitude with your team can help stave off depression on the job.”

This need for a positive mindset to bring about successful leadership and productivity in the workplace was also echoed by James V. Rawson, MD, FACR, vice chair for operations and special projects at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, during his session, titled “A Tale of Two Change Agents.” Rawson, who also chairs the ACR Commission on Patient- and Family-Centered Care, noted that radiologists tend to be resistant to change because they’re addicted to their workflows.

“As radiologists, we need to become inwardly directed but outwardly focused,” said Rawson. “Those are attributes that create effective and inspiring leaders.”

According to Rawson, small changes can make a big impact when it comes to leading teams more effectively. He suggests that radiologists take the time to say hello and smile at their colleagues when they arrive at their practices every day. “You’ll see, those around you will smile in response,” said Rawson. “It’s a small thing but it begins with you — changing what’s under your control first: yourself.”

Author Nicole B. Racadag, MSJ  Managing editor, ACR Bulletin