The New Rules of Leadership

This year's RLI Leadership Summit goes deep on finding your individual leadership style, creating sustainable success, and preparing your practice to respond to change.rules of leadership

Faculty at the 2017 RLI Leadership Summit hail from all corners of the business world.

Lakshmi Balachandra, MBA, PhD, has one of the most wide-ranging resumes, which includes working at venture capital firms, performing stand-up comedy, and running a toy shop she opened up right out of college. Today, she is faculty at Babson College and a leading expert in improvisation, negotiation, and entrepreneurial pitching. She is also a fellow in the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

The Bulletin caught up with Balachandra to discuss leadership in a changing health system and what this year's RLI Summit has to offer.

Why is it important for radiologists to learn to be leaders?

The reality is, you can't get ahead in your career if you're just a subject-matter expert holed up in a reading room somewhere. You need to be engaged with what's happening around you in your practice, your health system, and your specialty. This is a real opportunity to be a leader, and now is the time to develop those leadership skills.

Leaders are not born, and they certainly don't just all of a sudden appear. They need to be developed in order to emerge.

What advice would you give to someone whose interest lies primarily in reading cases?

You need to make time to do that, but as you progress in your career and as the health care system evolves, you may have more and more opportunities to expand your work. Even if you don't see yourself as a natural leader, leadership skills can absolutely be learned — and developing them will contribute greatly to your ability to be effective and enjoy your work.

I would also point out that leadership skills will also benefit you outside of your professional life. Learning to effectively work with others, plan strategically, and balance competing priorities — these are all going to serve you well in your home life and your social life as well.

Can you be a leader even without a management title?

Absolutely. Being a leader isn't about a title. It's about how you engage with the work and the people around you. As you are able to manage these things more efficiently and successfully, leadership will come.

Take negotiation as an example. I used to think that negotiation was a skill that leaders have, but now I realize it's actually the other way around. When you effectively manage the various negotiations in your life and your work, you emerge as a leader. It's not a title or a position. It's how you relate to others that enables you to become a leader.

How is leadership changing?

Our view of what leadership physically looks like has evolved greatly, especially in this country. In past generations, the quintessential idea of a leader was almost universally a white male. Today the accepted definition of a leader is expanding. That's not to say there haven't always been capable women and people of color acting as leaders, but mainstream leadership positions were by and large not available to these groups.

As we see increasing representation in terms of things like gender, race, religion, and orientation across professional domains, it then becomes a self-perpetuating process that brings in even more diverse perspectives. The picture of a leader at work, in the community, or in society doesn't have to be one particular type of person.

How can people find their own leadership style?

The best thing you can do is take some time and observe. Get a feeling for what your colleagues value, how the culture works, and what expectations are at play. For example, I'm a professor at Babson College, and before that I was a professor at Northeastern University. I'm doing the exact same job (teaching and conducting research), but the community and the values of the institutions are incredibly different. As a result, the way that I interact with people and the things I choose to focus on may not enable me to become a leader at one place like it did at another place. You have to constantly listen to your surroundings and adjust your approach.

What are you excited about at this year's RLI Leadership Summit?

We'll be helping people learn a little more about themselves and what is driving them when it comes to leadership roles. We're going to explore some of the traps that people fall into as leaders and talk about how to break out once you're back in your natural habitat. The summit is a way to step back and focus on yourself and how you can reach that next level as a leader.

What we often see is that you are your own worst enemy in most difficult leadership situations. So how do you get out of your own way?


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