A Day in the Life of a CE: Susan Reid

Susan Reid. MD, FRCSC
Professor and Department Chair
John A. Bauer Chair in Surgery
Department of Surgery
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

How Susan Reid, MD, FRCSC, views leadership

Dr. Reid sees leadership as taking two forms: personal and group leadership. The responsibilities attributed to either form of leadership depend on your role and whether it is informal or formal. In her opinion, leadership is situational:  a complicated process that involves managing expectations, communicating effectively, embracing different options and being able to formulate a clear direction and goals.

What makes a great leader?

Dr. Reid lists off several qualities of a great leader without hesitation:  they should have the ability to understand the interests of the group versus their own; be able to achieve goals; to understand the greater contexts in which groups function; and  to articulate the mission and vision of groups they belong to.  She adds that great leaders must have a clear perspective of what lies on the horizon and the ability to map out varying possibilities of how to get there.  She likens this to going on family vacation with an extended family: you need to be able to foresee and plan for everyone’s needs.

When assessing residents for leadership skills, Dr Reid looks for the ability to focus on what will make a day run well, to function within a team, and to go beyond simple management to initiative.

Qualities of an effective leader.

Dr. Reid describes the ability to communicate effectively across a breadth of different personalities as what ultimately forms the basis for a successful leader.

She believes that effective leaders should possess qualities as emotional intelligence, situational awareness, respectfulness, good listening skills, willingness take on and act on responsibilities, being humble – as well as the ability to be vulnerable: to shoulder the liabilities for the actions of oneself and the group.

The qualities you don’t want to see…

She also does not shy away from listing things that you should not see in a leader, including: intimidating, harassing or bullying others, not taking action when action is necessary and lacking the initiative to take on things outside their regular duties (i.e. leadership is more than just completing a task), shirking off/deflecting responsibility and blaming faults on others.

Tips for developing our future leaders

As a recognized clinician, educator and leader, Dr. Reid certainly has some advice for developing leadership in junior doctors. She recommends focusing on improving leadership skills within the teams rather than just the individuals, as well as providing more opportunities for residents to participate in the committee work of hospitals and the university.  She adds that formal coaching and leadership training opportunities can provide much needed ongoing focus on leadership qualities and that it can also be helpful to provide literature on leadership development, multi-modal educational programs on leadership, and to create opportunities for sponsorship and mentorship.