Leader of the Pack

Gaurab Bhardwaj, MBA, PhD, explains the ins and outs of good organizational leadership.

RLI pic

January 2016

John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” In that same vein, the Radiology Leadership Institute® (RLI) operates under the principle that leaders are made, not born.

To make this happen, the RLI curriculum combines the forces of radiology luminaries and faculty from Babson College, one of the nation’s top-ranked business schools. At the forefront of the RLI’s Babson faculty is Gaurab Bhardwaj, MBA, PhD, associate professor of strategy and management and member of the ACR Commission on Leadership & Practice Development. The Bulletin caught up with Bhardwaj to understand what it takes to be a good leader and to see the unique opportunities for radiologists in the shifting health care system.

Q. How do you exercise leadership, both professionally and personally?

A. Often we lead informally, especially in knowledgeintensive organizations. In my work, I take the initiative to collaborate with colleagues to continually improve and innovate around what we teach and how we teach it. For me, the essence of leadership is continually improving what we do by persuading smart, busy colleagues to join us in our efforts (even when they don’t have to).

Q. What unique leadership strengths do radiologists have?

A. Two strengths that are intrinsic to the profession stand out to me: the ability to keep learning and the ability to use data. Radiologists have to be good learners in order to be successful in their profession. Not only do radiologists undergo many years of education, but they are also required to keep up with the ever-changing boundaries of their field. This natural ability to learn is essential to leading contemporary health care organizations, which operate in a complex and dynamic environment. Similarly, in interpreting images, radiologists have to use data thoughtfully to draw valid conclusions. At the heart of leadership is the ability to make effective decisions. One way to avoid common decision traps is to be attentive to the right kind of data and to analyze it critically.

Q. What about someone who wants to move into a leadership position in the future?

A. Express your interest to your organization’s current leaders and people who may be willing to mentor and champion you. Volunteer for initiatives and responsibilities where you can get your feet wet. Through these experiences and by studying leadership, you will hone and demonstrate your capabilities.

Q. What is one mistake you see leaders making frequently?

A. I often see leaders adopt a style that is inappropriate to the kinds of people and organizations they are leading. To many people, leadership means being authoritarian and top-down. We assume that with authority comes knowledge or wisdom. I see leaders conveying decisions but not doing a good job of explaining the accompanying strategy.

Q. How important is authenticity?

A. It is essential. Authenticity affects whether you are trusted, which in turn affects so many things that contribute to a high-performance organization. For instance, trust in a leader’s character, ethics, honesty, and judgment influence how well people in an organization align with a change in direction that a leader may implement.

Q. How do you convey authenticity?

A. Authenticity must come across continually, and people’s perceptions build over time. It cannot be faked. To be a successful leader, you must genuinely care about the people and the organization, and you have to put their interests before yours. When you interact with others, try not to be patronizing or authoritarian. Help others succeed. Learn about the people you lead. It shows you care about them, it enables collaboration, and it helps you to make better decisions. Before a decision is made, invite ideas from people who will be affected.

Q. What is the biggest challenge to radiologists becoming leaders?

A. I don’t see any challenge as being particularly big for any radiologist wishing to play a leadership role. It does require learning the fundamentals of management, organizations, and business. But, time aside, this is not a difficult challenge.


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