Many RTs aspire to a position of leadership within their departments, but what does it really mean to be a leader, and how do you get there?
JJ Valdez, MSRC, RRT, RRT-ACCS, coordinator of clinical education for the respiratory care program at Victoria College in Victoria, TX, refers to the legendary leadership coach John Maxwell for an answer to that question. “J. Maxwell has defined leadership as ‘influence, nothing more, nothing less,’” he said.
In Valdez’s mind, though, there are two types of influence: positive and negative. To become a true leader in your department, you must focus on the former and do your best to avoid the latter.
“For me, the practices necessary to be a positive influence come down to choice,” he emphasized. “Leadership is not about ranks, title, or tenure. It’s about choosing to take on the personal responsibility to be a positive influence.”
Valdez believes people who want to become that positive influence in their department should cultivate six key characteristics. In his words —
- Credibility is the number one factor when it comes to being a positive influence. Do your actions match your words?
- Humility is the practice of seizing your potential in such a way others do not feel put down or left out. The only time to look down on someone is when you are helping them up. Do you extend a helpful hand?
- Optimism is enthusiastically identifying and effectively communicating a positive outcome despite the circumstances. Thomas A. Edison showed this when he famously commented on his lack of progress in making a lightbulb: “I have not failed,” he said. “I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Do you inspire others regardless of the situation?
- Investing is seeing and believing in people far more than they can see or believe in themselves. Do you find ways to intentionally commit your time to preparing yourself and others for tomorrow?
- Collaboration is having conversations with the purpose of development. Here’s another quote to consider, this time from the late American rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle. “If you look at the people in your inner circle and you do not get inspired, then you don’t have a circle. You have a cage.” Do the conversations with your inner circle inspire you?
- Empowerment is opening doors for others, giving them the opportunity to progress. The footprint of a leader is not substantial because of their power but rather their ability to empower others. Success without a successor is futile. Are you empowering those around you?
Putting these characteristics to work for you as you climb the ladder in respiratory care will bode well for your future. “When individuals demonstrate the capacity to be a positive influence by exemplifying each of these practices, they show they have the competence to make extraordinary things happen,” concluded Valdez. ”Are you a positive influence? The choice is yours.