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Why not a lab full of mini-leaders?

Where are all the great leaders these days? That question is being asked with increasing frequency, and not just in the political arena.

When we define "great leaders," we tend to mention names from a generation ago, like Roosevelt, Churchill, and Gandhi. These legendayr individuals shared several key characteristics. All were charismatic orators who could inspire seemingly ordinary people to do extraordinary things. All had a grasp of the times and how to shape them. All were able to move others to carry out their plans with zeal. This is the essence of functional leadership--the ability to influence the lives of others.

Of course, only a few such leaders arise in a lifetime. But before we despair of finding role models, let's look a little harder and a little closer to home.

Leadership in the 80s isn't extinct, just different. Often, it takes the form of an individual struggle to cope with and improve an ever more complex world. The homemaker who heads the PTA, the laborer who serves as a union officer, the citizen who runs for public office, and the local chapter president of a medical technology society are all what might be called mini-leaders. They may never direct a large corporation or command an army, but they have nonetheless influenced the lives of many.

When we look back over our own lives, most of us can remember someone who made a special, lasting impact--a teacher or relative, perhaps,who helped mold us into what we are. In the classic motion picture, "It's a Wonderful Life," a disillusioned man played by Jimmy Stewart has the chance to see what his community would have been like if he had never been born. He discovers that he has unknowingly changed hundreds of other lives for the better. Many of us, given the same opportunity, would be amazed to discover how our own actions positively affected those around us.

Every good laboratory has its share of mini-leaders. They may or may not hold an official leadership position, but their presence is always felt. The senior technologist who uses her skills to instruct less experienced employees; the technologist who takes an extraordinary interest in patient care; the manager who makes a special effort to bring continuing education opportunities within reach; or perhaps the recent graduate who brings an air of enthusiasm to an otherwise complacent lab--all are mini-leader who can change the way we approach our jobs.

Mini-leaders, like major leaders, can also have a negative impact. We have all known or worked with people who chronically look at the dark side of life. Unfortunately, their attitude often proves contagious. Being around them for any length of time takes a toll on our morale and performance.

Thepositive mini-leaders in the laboratory need encouragement to continue their role, but not necessarily to expand it. Too often, a successful and happy mini-leader becomes an ineffective, frustrated supervisor when promoted into a position beyond his or her abilities. As for negative mini-leaders, they may just need a forum to vent their opinions harmlessly. By listening to them, and taking corrective action when necessary, managers can neutralize their damaging impact and even redirect their energy and leadership talents.

In any period of marked historical change, and these are turbulent times for the health care professions, we hope to see the emergence of strong leaders. Perhaps more important, however, is the need for day-to-day inspiration and guidance from those of us in the trenches who can set a working example for others.

We can't all bemovers and shakers. But we can be mini-leaders--and it's easy to imagine what a legion of them could do for the laboratory profession. The next time someone asks where today's great leaders are, tell him to look around. They're everywhere.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:medical laboratory management
Author:Maratea, James M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Jul 1, 1984
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