• The Qualities of a Resilient Leader


    What are the key attributes of a resilient leader? This is one of the questions that Ruth D. Williams, MD, tackled during the Opening Session of the American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives (AAOE) on Friday at AAO 2020 Virtual.

    Strives to be an “excellentist, not a perfectionist. Excellentists understand that a call for perfection sets the bar too high, which can “zap confidence” and inhibit progress, said Dr. Williams. 

    Is not paralyzed by fear of failure. “Anyone pursuing innovation or a new endeavor knows that there are risks involved and [that they] will experience setbacks,” she said. “Failure is painful, but it is only a rest stop.” 

    Practices sober optimism. Resilient leaders are optimists, but they also are “very, very realistic ones,” as exemplified by ophthalmology during the pandemic, said Dr. Williams. “When we first started opening up, we didn’t have great information about the spread vector, and there was a lot of fear and confusion among patients and employees.” But as ophthalmologists got more information on COVID-19they were able to refine their protocols and see patients safely and efficiently. “The physicians who put those protocols in place were optimists, but they were very realistic about it.”

    Keeps energy high. “Energy is one of those things that seeps through an organization,” said Dr. Williams. Even though it is now more challenging than ever to keep energy high—“It’s exhausting to breathe through an N95 all day long”—your patients and staff need to see that you are alert and attentive.

    Understands that challenging times are also times of opportunity. Last March, when practices shut down, they were effectively pushing a reset button. In the process of reopening, they were forced to evaluate every single step of patient flow—resulting in new efficiencies.

    Constantly learns new skills, acquires new knowledge. Every leader must constantly learn new skills and acquire knowledge, said Dr. Williams, who noted that the pandemic caused an uptick in webinar activity and article submissions, which is a reminder of how much ophthalmologists value continuing education.

    Invests in others. “Happiness is a byproduct of being about something that is larger than oneself,” said Dr. Williams. “And I think one of the most remarkable things that we do together is invest in others . . . and that is one of the most important characteristics of a resilient leader.” —Chris McDonagh.

    Watch Dr. Williams’s full presentation, and the rest of the AAOE program. If you are registered for AAO 2020 Virtual, you have access to the archived presentations on the virtual meeting platform until Feb. 15, 2021. Log in to the virtual meeting platform: Next, from the Lobby screen, select “Sessions” from the top navigation; click “Agenda” in the drop-down menu; and search for what you are looking for.  

    Financial disclosures: Dr. Williams: None.

    Read more news from AAO 2020 Virtual.