Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dr. Peter Rhee - right man at right time

Command and control is out. Transformative leadership is in. You just can't tell people what to do. You have to get them to buy into your vision through shared values and powerful communications skills.

Sound familiar? These are my usual themes when talking about what makes a strong, effective leader in today's world. But what if you are Dr. Peter Rhee, chief of trauma at University Medical Center in Tucson? A former Navy surgeon who worked under combat conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dr. Rhee was on the front lines this past weekend. In an article in today's New York Times, Dr. Rhee is quoted as saying, "I don't think I am naturally a nice person. When you are in battle you don't have time for a discussion." His "just do it" leadership style sometimes causes friction with medical center colleagues used to a different approach. It seems clear, though, that he gets the job done, and that job is saving lives under the most difficult conditions.

I am not pulling back from my firm commitment to transformative leadership, with this one caveat. If I ever have the misfortune to be wheeled into a trauma center in grave condition, I want Dr. Rhee or someone with his take-charge style waiting for me there.

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