Behind the Scenes: Lessons in Leadership, Part I: Dancing with Doctors

As I write this post, the AAHPM & HPNA Annual Assembly hasn’t officially started, but I learned important lessons in leadership today. Some I anticipated – others were unexpected – but when I reflect on my day, here’s one that sticks with me (I will share another soon).

I had the opportunity to sit in on a portion of a special pre-course offering entitled, “You’re Not Just a Doctor Anymore: Finding Influence Through Effective Physician Leadership.” This session was sponsored by the AAHPM Leadership Development Committee and the American College Physician Executives (ACPE). The facilitator, Kevin O’Connor, shared a YouTube video featuring an unemployed guy named Matt who set out to do something simple – travel the world and videotape himself dancing at various locations where he visited. Matt’s 14 months and 42 country journey was later edited into a powerful 4 minutes video entitled, Where the Hell is Matt? which has now been viewed by more than 45 million people via YouTube. Since that time, he has returned to many of the same countries to dance again, this time, however, he has replaced his folksy stomp with more culturally appropriate steps taught by locals (see his 2012 video montage for more of Matt dancing, also available on YouTube).

What do Matt’s travels and this unexpected Internet dance sensation have to do with physician leadership? Quite a bit, it turns out – at least according to the pre-course participants. O’Connor suggested dance is a metaphor for leadership and influence which generated an interesting discussion among session participants. Some of the conversation centered around the following concepts and reflections:

· Doing something simple can inspire other to join in – it’s contagious
· Actions motivate; words aren’t always required
· What you set out to do may result in something positive and bigger than you imagine
· There is much to be learned from others if and when we take the time to watch and listen

This prompted further thoughts:

· Who is the “Matt” in your work environment?
· Does this person realize the impact he or she is having?
· How does this apply to the work of physicians in hospice and palliative medicine?
· Does our “happy dance” attract others? Is it sustainable? Does it inspire others to join in?

Sometimes the simple things we do reach people in ways we don’t expect. So keep on dancing.

Steve Smith, CAE
Executive Director/CEO
American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM)

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