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Doctors and the Importance of Servant Leadership

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Doctors and the Importance of Servant Leadership

Dear Resident Physicians:

You will soon finish residency and you may wonder what’s next. Some of you will start scholarships, but most will practice your specialty. You may be looking for opportunities that are a good fit for your needs and wants. Virtually all of you hope to earn higher income. I hope this ending is also a beginning, a renewal of your commitment to lifelong learning that is medicine.

One of the current concerns of our society is the possibility of a shortage of doctors. Part of that shortfall is attributed to a massive exodus of doctors experiencing “burnout.” General pessimism is the rule. Time to break the rule. You can thrive, not just survive.

Mahatma Gandhi set out to spread the message. John C. Maxwell built an empire on the concept. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired him in crowds. Rabbi Harold S. Kushner [When Bad Things Happen to Good People] became an authority on the subject. He exalted Mother Teresa to holiness. Dr. Francis W. Peabody described it in an article that has become the most cited and revered article in the medical literature.

All of these people were successful, recognized for their leadership. In each, that leadership was born out of service.

Robert K. Greenleaf is credited with launching the modern servant leadership movement, beginning with the publication in 1970 of his classic essay “The Servant as a Leader.” He coined the terms servant leader and servant leadership. The servant’s heart is a fundamental characteristic of a servant leader: incapable of doing anything but giving. Adding the conscious choice to serve will ignite a fervent ambition to lead. Contrast with those who want to be leaders just to experience power or acquire material possessions.

The servant meets the needs of the family (including his own), patients, colleagues, and the community. You will see those you serve grow as people, becoming healthier, wiser, and more autonomous. You will experience deep soul realization, which is pure gratitude.

Serving is not about being servile or false humility. It does not mean being submissive or weak. It does not mean to dictate or dominate. It does not mean self-denial or neglect of the family. One of the most important ways to serve your patients will be as a living example. Take care of yourself and your family first, whatever family is to you. Work with intention. Eat right, exercise, play, rest, and explore what spirituality means to you.

These wise words from our heroes are both encouraging and a radical challenge:

Mahatma Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

John C. Maxwell: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Martin Luther King, Jr .: “The most pressing question in life is: What are you doing for others?”

Rabbi Harold S. Kushner: “Caring for others, taking the risk of feeling and leaving an impact on people brings happiness.”

Mother Teresa: “Three things in life are important: the first is to be kind. The second is to be nice. The third is to be nice. “

Francis W. Peabody: “The secret of patient care is in patient care.”

Faith A. Coleman: “You can’t give your patients more than what your patients have already given you.” [Disclaimer: I do not attribute to myself the leadership or greatness of the people quoted above.]

All that said, don’t take yourself too seriously.

Faith A. Coleman He is a family doctor.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com


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