I Want to be Chair – How do I Get There?

William N. Levine, MD, FAAOS | Cara Cipriano MD, MSc, FAAOS

October 13, 2022

Are You Interested in Leadership?

Even in the early stages of your career, it’s a good idea to ask yourself if you might be interested in leadership roles. Whether or not you know the answer at this time, it will help to keep these steps in mind.

Defining Your Direction

Your trajectory will be most efficient if you have clear goals. This takes substantial introspection, as well as discussion with trusted mentors, family members, and/or coaches. Be honest about if and why you have aspirations for greater leadership participation. Remember to consider the other activities you will have less time to pursue as a result, such as clinical practice, research, or personal/family life. Do you already have a specific role in mind; for example, a division leader, a society president, or a residency/departmental leader? If so, speak to people who have been successful in that role to gain their perspective and advice. If not, think about what you’d like to accomplish and what type of role might best position you to have that impact. The more you allow yourself to explore, the more you are likely to learn about paths that might interest you, whereas the more specific you are in defining your goals, the more you can focus your efforts on achieving them. Don’t feel pressure to leave the explorer phase before you’ve identified your passion, but once you’ve found it, be sure to recognize that so you can move forward.

Targeting Opportunities

If you’ve decided to pursue leadership, get involved at the ground level. Serve on committees in your department, regional orthopedic society, or subspecialty organization. This will not only create networks and future opportunities, but also help you learn the language, cadence, and rules of engagement for committee work. When looking for such a position, identifying those that coincide with your strengths and interests. Discuss opportunities you are considering with mentors who are aware of your goals so that they can help you determine if they are valuable for you to pursue. Remember to assess the time requirement as well.While there are benefits to volunteering early and often, don’t overcommit and under-deliver! Failing to deliver can lead to a reputation of being an unreliable contributor and will close rather than open doors, often permanently. This is another situation in which self-awareness and honesty are critical. If you know yourself to be overly cautious regarding commitments, don’t allow yourself to be paralyzed if the timing isn’t perfect, because it may never be. However, if you tend to overcommit, make sure that you will have the capacity to do your best work if you say yes to an opportunity.

Performing Well

When working on committees or in other leadership roles, be a great listener, especially early in the process. Don’t rush to “make an impression” as you start. Focus on listening, absorbing, and learning for the first several weeks or even months, depending on the size of the group and frequency of the meetings. As you become more comfortable with the organization’s structure and culture, become more vocal and involved. Periodically ask for feedback from your leaders and those you are leading: What are you doing well? Where are you blind spots? What opportunities do you have to improve? Make sure they know that you are looking for improvement, not approval, and that you value constructive comments. Lastly, and most importantly, build relationships by consistently being kind, professional, and dependable in your actions as well as your reactions. Respect others and treat everyone well. This is essential not only to your success but also to making you a leader that others want to follow.

DISCLOSURES: Dr. Levine is on the Columbia faculty, serves as Board or committee member for the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, and is on the editorial or governing board for the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Dr. Levine serves as an unpaid consultant to Zimmer Biomet. Dr. Cipriano KCI: Paid consultant, Link Orthopaedics: Paid consultant, Musculoskeletal Tumor Society: Board or committee member

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.

Copyright© 2022 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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