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The Key To Effective Leadership


Sanjiv Chopra, Faculty Dean for Continuing Medical Education, Harvard Medical School, divines the qualities of an effective leader.

In his keynote address at the Pri-Med NY 2010 meeting, Sanjiv Chopra, MD, addressed the audience on the topic of leadership and how physicians need not only treat patients but also become leaders themselves.

His presentation, titled “Leadership for the 21st Century: The Ten Tenants of Leadership,” began by breaking down the word Leadership into a mnemonic device: Listening, Empathy, Attitude, Dreaming Big, Effectiveness, Resilience, Sense of Purpose, Humility, Integrity, and People Skills.

“It’s a topic that has fascinated me for as far back as I can remember,” he said.

Chopra is a professor of Medicine and Faculty Dean for Continuing Medical Education at Harvard Medical School.

For each word listed in the mnemonic device, Chopra delivered a specific explanation as to why it was needed. For example, listening, especially when an individual may or may not agree with the other point of view, is just one of the many essential components to becoming a great leader he said. It is through the act of listening that great ideas can take place, he said.

Under the word Empathy, Chopra highlighted the work of Florence Nightingale, who is credited by some to be the founder of the modern. Florence “Set an extraordinary and commitment to patient care,” he said.

Additionally, Chopra highlighted the work of Paul Farmer, MD, a physician and anthropologist, who traveled across the word bringing modern medicine technologies to impoverished countries. Farmer is the focus of the best-selling book “Mountains Beyond Mountains.”

Leaders “posses an attitude that is upbeat and courageous,” he said next. Not only are attitude and courage important to successful leadership but so is “heart and soul,” he said. Chopra pointed out that countries lacking in both will be economically and ecologically disadvantaged. Chopra highlighted Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, as an example of a fearless leader. Suu Kyi became the leader of a non-violent democratic opposition party that resisted a brutal regime.

While often times many may think talent is an important part of leadership, Chopra said persistence is what is really needed. “Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent,” he said. Education isn’t the center component either.

Chopra also discussed Gandhi’s list of top seven sins, in his discussion, such as “wealth without work,” and “science without humanity.”

He mentioned the moment (May 8, 1945 V-E Day) when Winston Churchill declared to the English people, “This is your victory” and they shouted back, “No, it is yours!” as a perfect display of great leadership as the leader and the people’s vision was clearly one, he said.

It is essential to stay grounded as well, Chopra said. Great leaders have no desire to become “larger-than-life” he said, they posses a sense of humility. Seriousness is an important component in some instances, but having a sense of humor is important to great leadership as well, he said.

Imagination is the key to opening the gates of great leadership as well and possessing people skills are just as important, he said.

Finally Chopra explained that great leaders come from all “walks of life,” young, old, rich, poor, etc.

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