It Takes a Village
How the people in our lives elevate our best attributes and transform our leadership gaps
By Stephanie Weyrauch, PT, DPT, MSCI
The theme of this year’s Private Practice Section Annual Conference reflected what we all experienced during the pandemic: resilience during a time of uncertainty. Leaders faced new challenges and looked to loved ones, colleagues, mentors, and within themselves for support and guidance.
These moments of vulnerability can accentuate both leadership strengths and leadership gaps. These gaps can be invisible and subtle, exacerbated by feelings of anxiety, anger, and fear. It is thus, in my opinion, essential to surround ourselves with people who elevate our strengths and mitigate our weaknesses in times when we are not able to fully carry ourselves. This article explores four groups of people vital to helping leaders transform leadership gaps into attributes.
In her book The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You And Your Greatness, author, business consultant, and executive coach Lolly Daskal identifies seven leadership characteristics that impact a leader’s effectiveness—both positively and negatively.1 These include confidence, intuition, courage, integrity, trust, loyalty, and candor. She argues that great leaders confront any gaps in these areas through reflection and intrinsic growth.
I see these areas of potential “leadership gaps” as neatly corresponding to four groups of people who we all have in our lives but may not recognize as valuable resources in our development and self-actualization as leaders.
The pandemic led many leaders to question their decisions. With so much uncertainty, this lack of confidence often blended into the lives of employees and team members, leading to panic in many industries including health care. Daskal defines confidence as one’s ability to limit self-doubt and emphasize self-assurance. It is an intrinsic attribute that affects extrinsic perception. 1,2
To prevent insecurity from becoming a leadership gap, Daskal recommends leaders be honest with themselves when they feel ashamed, vulnerable, or inadequate.1,2 These feelings guide growth. How do insecurities affect one’s ability to lead? Do they align with reality? Self-reflection represents one path to growth. When leaders challenge their own thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors, they become less concerned about self-doubt and more confident in their ability to lead.
Overcoming this leadership gap has defined my development as a clinical instructor. I took my first student two years after I graduated from physical therapy school. I struggled with self-doubt because of my lack of experience as a clinician and a teacher. I was honest with my student about these feelings and asked for ongoing feedback about my teaching style and ability. This honesty created a mutual exchange of critique, enhancing my growth as a teacher and my student’s growth as a clinician. I have since served as a clinical instructor to seven students. With each student, my confidence and leadership development grow. Welcome honest feedback and self-reflection into your life to strengthen leadership behaviors for yourself and for your team.
MENTORS: INTUITION AND COURAGE
COVID-19 required businesses to adapt quickly. Leaders were forced to rely on intuition and courage when making tough decisions. Intuition is a sense of knowing how to act decisively without needing to know why. It is a skill that can be enhanced with experience. However, when overused, the intuitive person may exploit others and use manipulative tactics to achieve the desired result.
Courage is the ability to execute tasks and assignments without fear or intimidation, especially during times of uncertainty. If overwhelmed, however, the courageous leader may become a bystander throughout the decision-making process. Mentors’ experience and wisdom can model these attributes, guiding the mentee during a crisis. They help us understand the intangibles that come with decision making and their advice stems from years of observation, data collection, and self-reflection.
Recently, a colleague told me a story about a mistake he had made when hiring a physical therapist. He was in desperate need of help at his clinic. Due to living in a rural part of his state, he only had one applicant for the open position. His regional director warned him not to hire “a warm body” but to instead ensure the person is a good fit for the culture he had built. He warned that one bad hire can negatively affect the clinic. From the start of the interview, my colleague expressed a bad feeling about the applicant. “But I needed help!” he told me. “The candidate looked good on paper. He had worked in management before and owned a construction business before switching careers. I went against my intuition, against the advice of my mentor and hired the candidate. A short time later I had to muster the courage to fire him—it took six months to finally follow through with my decision.”
Consult with mentors when looking for guidance and wisdom. Intuition and courage can provide insight to assist when forced to make impactful decisions that may either be damaging or valuable for your own personal growth and for the growth of your team.
TEAM MEMBERS: TRUST AND LOYALTY
Private practices are successful because of teams of clinicians, front office staff, and support staff. Leadership crafts the culture, hires the right people, and trains them appropriately. Leaders must be dedicated and trust their staff if they expect the same in return. Leadership gaps emerge when information is withheld and leaders make decisions that seem self-serving.
Team members ought to communicate with leadership if they feel transparency is lacking. If they feel leadership is being self-serving, morale typically plummets, increasing employee turnover.
The key to my boss’s success during the pandemic was his ability to remain transparent and his dedication to protecting his employees. Throughout the pandemic, he was forthright about our office’s situation. We worked together to cut costs and maintain revenue streams. His strengths in this area have created a self-perpetuating work culture with very little turnover and high employee satisfaction.
Transparency will facilitate trust and loyalty within your team. Teams who trust each other tend to be high achieving and will likely excel as leaders. Teams who display loyalty will remain strong through difficult times and facilitate behaviors of resiliency for long term success.
LOVED ONES: CANDOR AND INTEGRITY
Stay-at-home orders made many Americans realize how much they valued spending time with family. The extra time we spent with loved ones forced us to reflect on the quality of our relationships. Healthy relationships with family and friends foster candor and bolster integrity.
Candor is the quality of being open and honest in expression and speaking with frankness. It implies that a person cares. When overdone, a truth teller can come off as arrogant, so it’s important to have a trusting, respectful relationship. Many leaders depend on their spouses or close friends to serve as truth-tellers and speak with candor when brainstorming projects, discussing decisions, or asking advice.
Integrity is the product of respect, commitment, and trust. The relationship we have with our family and friends form the basis of our character and keep us accountable to our principles.
My spouse will never hesitate to tell me the truth on the quality of my work (including this article). He suggests improvements, recommends omissions, and provides entertaining additions to refine the original work. I admit that his candor can be uncomfortable initially but after yielding to his advice, the product is always better. He sees my work as an extension of himself, which holds me accountable to the high standards we have set for our household.
It is important to value the recommendations and embrace candor from loved ones. Allowing ourselves to openly listen and invite candor into our lives will put us in a better position to be high achieving and sustain leadership integrity.
START YOUR JOURNEY
The leadership journey is one of continued growth and self-reflection. It is a journey that we cannot hope to make alone. We must surround ourselves with the right people if we are to turn leadership gaps into leadership strengths and teach others to do the same.
1Daskal L. The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness. New York, NY: Portfolio; 2017.
2Daskal L. Unleash Your Greatness. e-Book; 2017.
Stephanie Weyrauch, PT, DPT, MSCI, is a past PPS Nominating Committee Chair and current member of the APTA Nominating Committee. She works as a physical therapist at Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers in Orange, CT. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TheSteph21.