Covid19Medical Imaging

Servant Leadership is the New Standard

By Anthony Gregory, Director of Medical Imaging, Hazard ARH

Since the SARS-CoV-2 virus was first identified in December 2019, the world has been forever changed. The COVID-19 pandemic took the world by surprise as, seemingly, no one was prepared for the magnitude of change that the COVID-19 pandemic would bring. In the United States, an already strained healthcare system became overwhelmed with the breadth of the unique struggles that accompanied the pandemic. One such problem, that is often attributed to the pandemic, became known as the Great Resignation.

The dynamic of the Great Resignation is an epidemic in its own rite, but there’s no denying that the healthcare industry was devastated by the loss of skilled and competent healthcare workers. The medical imaging community was hit especially hard as many hospitals and imaging departments struggled to have enough employees to provide quality services without interruption. The problem seemed to have a cascading effect with what many believed there to be no end in sight.

During every conversation, I made a point to treat my employees as people instead of human capital. I let them know how important they are and seek to develop more leaders with the same qualities.

As a leader, I knew I had to face this problem head on, and rather than focus on the complexities of the situation, I was determined to find a solution. Every analysis and evaluation concluded with the same strategy; to focus on recruitment and retention. But how could I set my department and organization apart from the thousands of other medical imaging departments facing the same problem? My experience has been that servant leadership was the most effective method for retention. I set out to build a culture and create an environment that people would enjoy working in, as much as one could enjoy work, and ultimately believe this is sound advice for any leader in any profession.

My first realization was that no matter my aptitude for the business, I could not be a leader if I didn’t have a team to lead. I always struggled even to take a day off since I had a feeling that my department couldn’t run without me. That couldn’t have been further from the truth as the harsh reality that set in was my department didn’t need me at all! I could be replaced in an instant and they would all be just fine. The second realization was that even though they could make it without me, I could not make it without them. I set out to let them know how important they were to me, our patients, and our organization.

The Great Resignation has shown that people seem to have no problem leaving jobs or companies behind, and throughout my career, there had been jobs and companies that I had no trouble leaving. By the same token, there had been jobs that I could almost never imagine leaving. What differentiated the two? The bonds that were created between leaders and co-workers make up the difference. People have a much harder time leaving, families, friends, and mentors. I set out to create that environment by initiating team-building exercises and creating relationships between myself, my employees, and amongst themselves.

Before long, as the culture shifted, my team was working to recruit people into the organization. As they gave testament to the work environment, more applicants started flowing in because we were developing the reputation that our department was a great place to work! I tried to take time out of my busy days to chat with students, and my teams, one on one, to establish myself as an approachable leader. For the longest time, when I would summon people to my office, the response was always, “Oh no! What did I do wrong?” That always bothered me. I wanted to dispel the negative connotations related to coming to my office for a chat.

During every conversation, I made a point to treat my employees as people instead of human capital. I let them know how important they are and seek to develop more leaders with the same qualities. Today, I can confidently say that I feel that I have the best team around! I am honored to have the opportunity to work with them and be someone they trust and respect. I am extremely thankful for those leaders who believed in me, motivated me, and allowed me to serve. Even more so, I value the lessons I’ve learned from the bad leaders, as they’ve taught me what leadership styles to avoid. 

To be a servant leader is to take the organizational chart, turn it upside-down, and place yourself at the bottom. We must remember that our role is to be supportive, to create an environment in which people can grow, to create a culture in which people can thrive, and to be a leader that you would want to follow. The job market, at the moment, is wide open and there are multitude of opportunities available. Many offer better pay, larger bonuses, and other superficial attractions. I ask everyone who is reading this to ask themselves, “Why would people want to work for us?” It is no longer a question of “Why do you want this job?” but, rather, “Why wouldn’t you want this job?” Only when you can ask that question, you created the right environment to attract and retain the best of talent.

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