Physician leader Dr. Teresa Amato, Chairperson at Northwell Health, was speaking to an audience of over 200 female Emergency Medicine physicians. Her motive was to encourage more women to become physician leaders. Too frequently she had been told, “ I don’t have time to get involved in leadership”. Definitely women are busy and there may be another less obvious concern.
Ask any woman and she will tell you that she has to work twice as hard as a man to be seen as half as good. Social biases are real; women have to prove they are capable. Men, at least white men, are assumed to be competent until proven otherwise. This helps to explain why men ask to be considered for new opportunities, even if they only meet about 60% of the requirements.
“Women need to shift from thinking I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that, and I’ll learn by doing it”. Sheryl Sandberg’s quote points to what keeps women from leaning into new opportunities. That is what Dr. Amato saw in the women around her- a mistaken belief that they were not ready- yet.
Fact is, most physician leaders are figuring things out as they go along. The higher up in leadership you climb, the more often you encounter something new, for which there is no procedure or best practice. You are better off to replace expecting you should know the answer to trusting you will find a solution that fits this situation.
Count on the following when you don’t know the answer:
- Belief in a compelling vision. What future possibility do you support?
- Shift your relationship to failure. Have you discovered the next place to apply extra effort?
- Be a curious learner. Release your grip on what you know and explore what is possible. Who can you ask more questions of?
- The willing support of friends and colleagues. Where can you go to speak your fears out loud and feel valued, even when you feel imperfect?
There will never be a time when you know enough or have seen it. Right now you are enough and your perspective is just what is needed. Jump in-you are already good at learning by doing!