The Most Crucial Step Of Growth
It is immersive and aggressive experiences that cause us to leap to the next step! What experiences contribute most to developing leadership to you?
They are those in which you have to perform! No ifs, ands or buts! Experiences where you cannot rely or depend on anyone else to make the tough calls and the crucial decisions of a leader. You are it, sink or swim.
Everything is on the line. The people may follow you, or they may not. They may leave, or they may support you. It is all based on what you do, and how you think.
Aggressive, immersive, consequential!
It’s what a person has to do, and not what he’s exposed to that generates crucial learning. - Unknown
Let me illustrate what an aggressive, immersive experience looks like. When it comes to developing your leadership, nothing prepares you more than experience!
It was my first night as an intern. I had just finished four years of medical school where we had intense learning.
Anxious and sacred, I reported to my post in the Emergency Room at John Peter Smith Hospital, the county hospital known for handling the worst cases around town.
The ER doctor quickly and casually introduced himself and told me that he would be taking care of the trauma patients on the other side of the ER, and that I need to handle about 15 beds on the other side for the graveyard shift.
I stood there in shock… “What?” I thought…
“Me? By myself? Is this guy crazy? These people have real emergencies, and I do not know what I am doing… this is my first night.” But eager to prove myself, I was quick to tell him, “Yes sir, I will do my best.” And he disappeared, never to be seen for the rest of the night.
Let me tell you – I had never been so scared as I was that night! But, I had to perform. I could not leave!!! Luckily, the nurses who worked there were used to new interns like me and knew that if something was really crucial, they would go get the attending physician…but, I did not know that!
Simply put, I was baptized by fire that night.
I put my stethoscope around my neck and introduced myself to the nurses, who were not so impressed. All ER beds were next to each other, with only curtains between them. So the sounds, the groans, the shouts and the smells mixed together to make this dissonant humming sound.
My first patient was a 17 year old girl who had just tried to commit suicide. She had taken over 20 sedative pills. I knew that could not be good… she could stop breathing. I ordered Charcoal to induce vomiting and looked at the nurse who was with me to make sure I was doing the right thing. He nodded his head in the affirmative.
The next patient was an Indian 78 year old man who barely spoke English. He had not urinated for 2 days and was in severe pain most likely from an enlarged prostate. I asked the nurse to put in a urinary catheter to drain the bladder. Two nurses tried, and they said they could not and then proceeded to inform me that I needed to put it in myself!
“What? that’s really not good,” I thought. I had seen urinary catheters put in, but I had never put one in. Now I am being asked to put one in the most difficult case.
So I hesitantly said, “Okay, I will try.” So I tried… and tried… and tried. The poor man screamed and screamed. And everyone was watching me and listening.
The catheter never went in! Now what? All the trying opened the urinary passage a little bit for him to have some urine come out to relieve the pain. I told him to wait for the urology team in the morning and hoped all would be okay.
Then there was the patient who had a foreign object in the eye, and the patient with severe psychotic episode screaming because she was seeing cockroaches everywhere, and the patient having the heart attack where I had to call the cardiologist at night and wake her up. Not a very pleasant call!
Simply put, I had to perform. People depended on me!
I don’t know how, but I did it! It was the most intense 12 hours of my life, the most exhilarating!
I simply became a doctor that night.
As I look back now nine years later, I often wonder why they did that to new doctors. I think somehow they knew that is what it takes to make a good doctor. Teach them the stuff they need to know, then let them have aggressive experiences that test their knowledge, nerves and humanity.
And now I know that is what it takes to make a good leader!
You first have to be exposed to leadership principles. This is a must! I could not have performed well that night if I had not gone through medical school. But then the crucial step to developing your leadership is aggressive and intensive experience.
You have to make sure you have those as a leader!
So I want to encourage you to not be afraid. Get in there. Do it. Challenge yourself. Stretch.
There is nothing like pressure to grow your leadership. Let’s not only read and write about leadership…
Let us lead!
And lead in ever bigger ways.
Go for it!