“I am doing everything they ask of me, but for some reason, they still do not see me as a leader”

Michael Brown, M.D.

When a client recently said this to me, it was hard for me not to think about the implied contradiction in this sentence. Someone who does everything that is asked is following (not leading). This person had indeed successfully taken on more managerial responsibilities, but as her complaint suggests, something else was lacking.

One cause that I commonly observe relates to clients not knowing how to bring their full authentic self into discussions. For example, when I ask clients how he or she believes a work issue should be addressed, I often hear “I think what they want is…”. I then repeat the question emphasizing that I first want to know their opinion about what should be done. I suggest we delay talking about what “they want” for later. The people with whom I speak are often the most knowledgeable people regarding what we are discussing, and people in their organization should and usually do value their expertise.

Of course, differences of opinion need to be presented diplomatically, and you must accept that even if your ideas are right, you can’t always get your way. Also, health systems are complex political environments. Especially during your years of training, you have been evaluated by how well you do what is expected of you. However, if you wish to be a leader, you are expected to demonstrate initiative. You must learn to express your true thoughts and persuade others for what you really believe.

Michael Brown, MD, MS, MCHM, CHCIO is a certified executive coach (Center For Executive Coaching) and Chief Medical Officer at Acesis, Inc. He was an instructor at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health for 8 years after graduating from their Masters in Healthcare Management program in 2007. For the 12 years prior to joining Acesis in 2014, Michael was the Chief Information Officer for Harvard University Health Services.