10 positive leadership qualities to foster now and carry into radiology’s next crisis

As the cliché goes, “never let a good crisis go to waste,” and leaders at Michigan Medicine are taking that mantra to heart by seeking ways to improve leadership in the institution’s radiology department.

Experts at the Ann Arbor-based institution detailed their lessons learned from the COVID crisis in an article published Tuesday in Academic Radiology. Imaging leaders have partnered with the University of Michigan’s Ross Business School Center for Positive Organizations to help implement new methods of management to carry them now and into the profession’s next calamity.

“Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are shaping the culture of our departments for years to come in how we show up to lead our departments during this time,” wrote Kimberly Garver, MD, an assistant professor of radiology and associate chair of the Department of Life and Culture, and colleagues. “Not only is the virus contagious, but so are our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.”

Here are 10 positive leadership qualities that Garver and colleagues have worked to implement in Michigan Medicine’s Radiology Department. They’ve urged imaging leaders to be:

1) Principled: Communicating their personal and organizational mission, vision and values, and referencing them regularly to guide problem solving and decision-making.

2) Trustworthy: Sharing facts from reliable sources, in a calm manner that’s free of exaggeration or understatement.

3) Compassionate: Demonstrating “true empathy” for team members, building connections with coworkers at all organizational levels, and actively working to address their concerns.

4) Transparent: Sharing “frequently, consistently and clearly” and making their thought processes visible to all.

5) Authentic: Embracing and working to address weaknesses, but also building upon strengths.

6) Accountable: Shouldering the blame for mistakes where necessary, apologizing sincerely, and expecting the same from others.

7) Learners: Asking more questions, supporting the team with additional training and feedback, and reflecting daily on wins and losses.

8) Humble: Complimenting department members with examples, giving positive to negative feedback in a 3:1 ratio, and delegating without micromanaging.

9) Flexible: Shaking off the urge to stick to business as usual and keeping the team ready to pivot plans at a moment’s notice.

10) Present: Arriving first to the department each day and leaving last, remaining open to experimentation, and just showing up consistently regardless of the circumstances.

“Although positive leadership is important all of the time, it is particularly important in times of crisis,” Garver and colleagues wrote. “How we decide to show up will determine how they decide to show up.”

You can read lots more on Michigan Medicine’s leadership qualities, including concrete examples of how they’re using each, in Academic Radiology, the official journal of the Association of University Radiologists.