Leading for success in medicine: 5 ways to inspire others to serve

Leading for success in medicine: 5 ways to inspire others to serve

The great Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Medicine has always been about serving others. Certainly medical professionals must be well trained in science and understand the biology of the human body. However, success in medicine is not just defined by intellectual ability and surgical or clinical skill. Rather, success in medicine relates to how you connect with patients and impact the lives of them and their families.

As physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers, it is incumbent upon each of us to give our very best to our patients every single day. In addition, those that work with us—office staff, hospital staff and others—look to us for leadership and inspiration. There is no better way to inspire others to action than through demonstrating dedication to patients and service to others in all that you do.

The question is, exactly how can we inspire those we work with through service? Here are five suggestions:

Male nurse shaking hands with woman in wheelchair
  1. Understand that service is power.

When a leader is able to demonstrate selfless acts, a corporate culture of service is created. Other team members notice when those in positions of authority take action and subsequently become inspired to serve as well. In medicine, for example, physicians can take an extra moment for a grieving family member or can assist an elderly patient to their car after an office visit. Rather than asking another staff member or healthcare provider to do such tasks, the simple act of becoming involved and engaged and ACTING is a critical step in leading others toward success. These deeds do not go unnoticed by either patients or staff. Often, those who observe such deeds gain a more deep-seated respect for those in leadership positions and are motivated to work harder to provide even better care to all patients and clients—leading to a more successful practice.

Most importantly, lead through hard work. Never ask your support staff to work harder than you. Honor the commitment and hard work of those around you as well. Acknowledgment of effort can reinforce the positive behaviors of those with whom you work.

  1. Educate those around you.

Knowledge provides the basis for service; lead through knowledge. Make sure that you know more about your particular business or area of specialty than anyone else. Competence and ability go a long way toward motivating others to engage and serve your patients and customers. Successful leaders must also provide service to their staff. By taking time to help staff develop academically and professionally, you can help them be more effective at their particular jobs. It is essential that leaders actively participate in these types of educational activities. It is not enough just to have regular educational and professional development activities arranged—those in positions of authority must engage with staff and take part in the events in order to continue to build respect and camaraderie.

Doctor looking at tablet
  1. Provide time and resources.

Nothing is more frustrating to employees that truly want to succeed than not having the resources and support necessary to be effective at their particular jobs. Successful leaders must make sure that everyone in the organization is able to voice their opinions and concerns and that these concerns will be addressed. Employees should be able to focus on the patients rather than worry about the availability of a particular clinical tool or resource. As a leader, you’ll need to provide adequate manpower for every task and to provide staff members with the very best tools and support mechanisms for the job. Outdated computers, software programs and lack of IT support can be an enormous barrier to success and can be demoralizing for those who truly want to excel and provide outstanding service to others. The most successful leaders get in front of problems and communicate with staff to let them know help is on the way.

  1. Lead by example.

Humans want to be appreciated and respected. Effective leadership involves treating everyone with respect. Whether they are superiors, subordinates or colleagues, everyone performs better when treated well. By serving those you work with, you inspire them to be their best. Leaders who earn the respect of their employees create a much happier work environment where everyone is satisfied and fulfilled. Satisfied employees always go the extra mile to serve patients and other customers. Ultimately, this work ethic becomes part of the culture of your practice or healthcare system.

Doctor with clipboard speaking to nurse
  1. Mentor others to become leaders.

In order to motivate others to perform at a high level, those in positions of authority must work to help them maximize their potential. Encourage employees by providing counseling when appropriate and assist them in their professional growth by providing them with the tools necessary to serve others. Be accessible and friendly, and become a resource by urging employees to reach out to others in the community when they see opportunities for service. As the leader, take an active role in any employee-driven service projects, and engage with staff—no matter what their role may be. Everyone has hidden potential, and you have the power to help every person that works with you discover theirs. Encourage risk-taking in order to better develop leadership skills. Playing it safe is not always the best way to succeed.

Leadership in medicine is critical to improving outcomes for our patients. As physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers, both patients and staff look to us for guidance. We must first lead by example, but we also must help others learn to lead. The best way to inspire others to leadership roles is to provide service to patients, customers and the community at large. Service roles give leaders credibility and provide a humanness that promotes connection between a leader and followers.

Medicine is a service-based profession. While economic and political pressures continue to have negative impacts on medicine, we must always focus on the service aspect in order to succeed. If we do this, our organizations, medicine and society as a whole will benefit greatly.


What techniques do you currently use to motivate your staff? What might you try in the future to inspire others? Share your experiences in the comments.