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Book Review: "Effective Medical Leadership" by Bryce Taylor

Many members of the Department have written or plan to write books, but few will be able to achieve the broad relevance and interest that Bryce Taylor's "Effective Medical Leadership" will generate. In the introduction Bryce tells us that the book is written "for you, the aspiring medical leader" and that he seeks to "get at the essence of effective leadership by medical and surgical professionals". This he accomplishes with grace and humour. The book is divided into ten chapters which range from a general discussion of leadership to teamwork, personnel, a typical day, quality of care and risk, planning and execution, data and money, and the individual character of leaders. The book is written in an engaging personal style and includes a list of ninety references.

The content of the chapters is highly relevant to anyone holding or aspiring to a medical leadership position. For instance the chapter "A Typical Day" discusses values, the role of the executive assistant, communication, meetings and committees, unscheduled and one on one meetings, the role of managers, and time management. The chapter on "Other Important Issues" discusses hot button topics such as privacy, media relations, fund raising, the addicted physician, and relationships with industry. The wide range of subjects covered make the book a useful reference for any medical leader - I have already benefitted from using a section of the book to deal with a local issue in my current leadership role.

Anonymyzed real-life examples are interspersed throughout the book. These vignettes add spice to the text and act as case-studies that amplify the lessons in the body of the chapters. Some of the situations, such as "Cito Gaston, An Effective Leader: Let the Players Play" and "Carl Yastrzemski at Massachusetts General Hospital: A Hero Receives a Hero's Care" draw on Bryce's abiding interest in baseball and add engaging readability. Situations such as "The Medical Leader and Fiscal Responsibility: Everyone Supports a Tough Decision" drawn from a difficult personal experience, hits home with those who have been in similar situations. The next generation of medical leaders will benefit from reflecting on how they would handle such

challenges in advance of experiencing them first hand. "Doctor J. An Irremediable Situation: Sometimes Surgery is the Only Solution" provides an example of how monumentally challenging some leadership issues can be, and how elusive the solutions are.

Bryce has placed pearls of advice throughout the chapters. Some of my favorites are:

  • To apply for something important you have to know what you are applying for
  • This is the era of accountability; it is also the era of collaboration and cooperation
  • As death is part of life so too is retirement part of a surgical career
  • You'll never have enough hospital resources to do the things you want to do
  • When respect is lost, effectiveness is lost

These pithy one-liners provide easily remembered sage advice from an expert. The final two chapters "The Character of a Leader" and "Epilogue: Some Final Thoughts About the Success of Your Leadership" contain a wealth of wisdom learned on the job. Bryce's advice to be positive, consistent, truthful, honest, appreciative, human, impartial and visible describe a road map for success from a proven medical leader.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in hospitalbased leadership. While the context of Bryce's experience and most of the situations relate to our Canadian healthcare system, health care leaders in other jurisdictions will be able to benefit from its depth and universality. Aspiring students of leadership and experienced medical leaders can learn from the book, but I hope that nonhospital and government administrators will also read it to gain insight into the challenges faced by effective medical leaders. Both the content of the book and the style in which it is written are outstanding. Bryce is to be congratulated on an important job well-done.

Robin Richards
November 2010

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