Healthcare leaders gathered on February 8th, 2023, for Leadership Health Care’s executive briefing event to hear Patrick R. Leddin, Ph.D., Author of The Five Week Leadership Challenge, on becoming an impactful leader.
Molly Vice, Vice President of Member Engagement and Programming, Nashville Health Care Council, introduced the conversation, moderated by Drake Jarman, Senior Vice President of Growth, Amedisys, Leadership Health Care board chairman. The discussion started with a presentation on leadership from Leddin.
“The reality is leadership is tough. It is an honor. It is a privilege. It is an amazing opportunity. It might give you opportunities to develop other people. But at its core, it is tough. You must have tough conversations, make some difficult decisions, decisions that impact the lives of other people, balance the needs of constituents and run an organization,” Leddin said.
Leddin has spent his career studying leadership, practicing it, researching it, writing about it, and learning from others who have done well and struggled with it. Leddin provided an overview of his book, The Five Week Leadership Challenge, based on this idea of five practices of impactful leaders. Throughout the conversation, Leddin highlighted two pieces of advice from his book: the power of stories and the importance of discipline. Leddin emphasized that he wanted attendees to walk away from the discussion with the knowledge to teach others.
The power of stories. Not just any story but your story, your people’s stories and the stories that you write daily. Your story is what you have experienced and learned from other people. We all have our stories. We all have our experiences. It’s all about harnessing the power of these stories. Leddin encouraged the attendees to think about the story that they are writing. He challenged the audience with thought-provoking questions: As a leader, what is the story you are helping your people write? Who is writing your story? And how are you helping to write other people’s stories?
Leddin drove the point home through an exercise and shared his definition of leadership. “Leadership is not just organizing resources or delegating tasks; it is ultimately seeing the value, worth and potential of someone and speaking it to them so clearly, that they start to see it in themselves. And then they start doing things they didn’t think were possible.”
The first step in management is organizing resources and delegating tasks. Management has its function. But Leddin believes leadership is a higher art form than management because “we manage things, but we lead people.” For the exercise, Leddin challenged the group to think about a leader who impacted them and their story. The audience participated by sharing influential leaders in their lives.
The reality is, as a leader, people are watching you and how you behave every day. Leddin asked questions highlighting this idea: Are you showcasing behavior worthy of modeling and helping others to do the same? Are you creating a shadow that will cast positively over others for months and years to come? He explained that leadership has the potential to impact people in significant ways.
The importance of discipline. Leddin told a story about his colleague, Blaine, who kept using the word discipline in a presentation. Blaine defined discipline as a consistent regimen that leads to freedom of action. Leddin explained that when he first heard the definition, he was confused as the phrase ‘consistent regiment’ and ‘freedom of action’ seemed in conflict with each other. However, Blaine told Leddin how his parents wanted him to learn to play the piano growing up.
The critical part was that Blaine did not want to learn it; his parents wanted him to. And when all the other kids were playing outside (freedom of action), Blaine was stuck inside playing the piano (consistent regimen). But Blaine shared with Leddin, “if you have a little bit of skill and you keep doing it, month after month, year after year, you kind of get pretty good at it.” Now, as an adult, if Blaine goes to someone’s house and there is a piano, he can play music that he and others can enjoy. A consistent regimen leads to freedom of action.
Leddin told the audience how this challenged him to think about his personal experience with this definition of discipline. He connected it to his time serving in the military, where he first learned a consistent regimen by running three to five miles every morning, five to six days a week. That discipline gave him the freedom to run a marathon.
Fast forward some years later when Leddin was no longer in the Army, he decided to run a marathon. He built a fantastic plan for consistent training, but life happened. His kids got sick in the middle of the night, so he had to sleep in, or his boss wanted a report, so he had to get to work early. There were plenty of reasons not to be consistent but nonetheless, race day came. Leddin said he finished, but it was not pretty. However, it taught him that consistency matters — not just in running a marathon but in running the marathon of life, by consistently walking the talk and staying focused on the goal.
As a leader, Leddin says this shows up as “Consistently treating people with respect and dignity, inviting them into the conversation, and not playing favorites.”
To learn more or work with Patrick Leddin, email [email protected].