Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.
Why are physician leaders hesitant to do this?
You may think you are special. Most physicians do. From the moment you were accepted to medical school, people kept telling you how special you were. Then you learned from physician teachers who kept telling you how special they were. No wonder so many physicians believe this nonsense—and start behaving accordingly. You see other physician colleagues getting away with behavior that would not be tolerated in others, and that confirms it. The rules are meant for lesser mortals. Why should you hold yourself accountable for your behavior when no one else does? Role models have a powerful impact on others; that impact is not always positive.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
Physician leaders set the tone. People will look to you to be an example. Even those who regularly misbehave themselves will watch you carefully. They will look for evidence of your hypocrisy as an excuse to keep on misbehaving. They will reckon that you cannot hold them accountable for behaving the same way you do. Since you will be expected to confront your colleagues when they behave badly, your failure to hold yourself accountable will undermine your credibility and influence.
How can you do it?
1. Review your organization’s code of conduct carefully. Be honest with yourself. How do you measure up? Do you behave the same way when no one is there to notice?
2. Seek out colleagues who will tell you the truth. Ask them if you are practicing what you preach. Ask for specific examples. Resist the urge to be defensive when they point out your shortcomings. Thank them for doing you the service of being honest. Ask them to keep the feedback coming.
3. Review your organization’s Rules of Engagement. If they have not written such a document, create a draft and invite your fellow leaders to work with you to clarify expectations about how you will work together to achieve your goals.
How do you hold yourself accountable?