Chapter 05: Reflecting on Leadership Qualities

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Chapter 05: Reflecting on Leadership Qualities

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In this chapter, Ms. Yadiny reflects on her own leadership qualities and discusses leadership in general. She tells another story of Marshall Hicks, head of the Division of Diagnostic Imaging, as an example of someone who has used the coaching services of Faculty Development to help him through leadership transitions and life transitions. She notes that the Executive Coaching service was established in 2008 to support new chairs and that Ethan Dmitrovsky is expanding coaching services. She notes that she earned her coaching certification. She lists her leadership traits (noting that she is a good idea person, "but this doesn't mean I'm a good manager") then talks about models of leadership she has discovered in her reading of literature. Ms. Yadiny then explains that, even though self-reflection is a key element of leadership training, many people "are terrified of it." She tells an anecdote that demonstrates how seemingly small issues can have a big impact on initiatives. Ms. Yadiny then notes that MD Anderson has had a "case study of leadership" over the past years, since Ronald DePinho came on a president. She notes that she would love to have a conversation with him about what he has learned about leadership and shares an anecdote that suggests he has been thinking about the subject.

Identifier

YadinyJA_01_20160222_C05

Publication Date

2-22-2016

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - The Administrator; Multi-disciplinary Approaches; Leadership; On Leadership; On Mentoring; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work

Transcript

Janis Apted Yadiny:

You know, Master and Commander, that series of novels, right?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yes.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

You learn about early management on those ships and how they were organized. I mean, you can go back in history, I don’t know, right back to the beginning and how we organize civilization. It’s all about management essentially, how tribes manage themselves, and were led. Same stuff really, but it’s really understanding yourself and others, and being in tune as much as you can, with what motivates people and allows them to commit, or engages them fully.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

A phrase that I heard, I think it comes from Carl Jung actually, and I heard this a long time ago from a leadership consultant is, “You are your own instrument.” And that whole process of asking the question, well what kind of instrument am I, what kind of instrument are you? Not the same, but what are they, how do you understand who you are and how you maximize what you do well and mute what you don’t do so well or find help for that. And then how do you create an interface using your instrumentation with other people, I mean it’s just a very complicated thing, and self-awareness is so much a part of it.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yeah, and that’s why, when we started off and I was talking about transitional moments. I’m very struck by the way Linda Hill puts it in her work, that these transitions create tremendous emotional and intellectual upheaval. They destabilize you. They call into question everything you knew about yourself and how the world worked, and if you’re smart, you realize that you are going to, as you move up through the ranks, you’re going to be destabilized at every step of the way because you don’t know yet, what your identity is going to be up here. You’ve kind of figured it out here and then here and then here and here, but it keeps changing.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And I think, you know, the worst thing people can do is to shy away from it, because it means you’re denying yourself the opportunity to move into, (a) growth, but (b) more sophistication in doing what you want to do.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Right, right. My example of a fabulous person here who’s embraced the leadership development journey, is Marshall Hicks. We started working, we, that’s Fred Schmitt. Fred Schmitt came onboard in 2004, with the EDG Group. He was involved with them, but they brought him into the institution, he’s been incredibly popular here. Marshall really took a liking to Fred and Fred has been his executive coach since then, since 2004, that’s 12 years. And at that time, Marshall had maybe eight or nine faculty working for him, maybe ten, maybe, and now he has over a thousand people, he’s a division head.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What’s the division, I’m sorry.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Diagnostic Imaging. Every step of the way, he brought Fred in, to work with his various leadership teams, and he’s kept Fred, you know he talks to Fred all the time, because Marshall says, I don’t know what’s coming around the corner next, but I can now assume that there will be aspects of it that I don’t understand or won’t know quite how to respond. So he has long talks with Fred at night. Fred has given him hundreds of hours of free coaching. They’re really good buddies now. Marshall can call up Fred and say I’ve got this situation, here’s what I’m thinking of doing, tell me what you think, and Fred will say that falls right into your biggest Achilles heel doesn’t it, so you know what’s going to happen if you do that. And Marshall says yeah, I just wanted to, you know. I mean, he knows him that well, so that to me is a fabulous example of what happens when you have a leader/learner, because leading is learning, and leading is debriefing with your staff and your group and saying how did that go, what did we learn, what do we know from this and how can we do it better.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I glitched and missed Fred’s last name.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Schmitt. S-C-H-M-I-T-T.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Great, interesting.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

So, leader/learners, that’s what we try to develop. We’ve had several of them who’ve taken to coaching. I know one who has two coaches. He has one that I provide and he has another guy that I know, who’s a consultant, and he uses the two different coaches for different things presumably.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sure.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

But you know, coaching has caught on like wildfire here, because it gives you the opportunity to have those personal conversations with somebody who’s completely neutral and confess your fears, like I don’t know what the heck I’m doing and something is not working right. I’m having all kinds of problems with my faculty or I have faculty who are not performing the way they should or who are insisting we hire more faculty, but I’m not really sure that’s the right answer to the problem. So you have somebody that you can work these things through with. It’s enormously helpful. So that, the executive coaching, was started by Dr. DuBois and myself in 2008, and we decided then, I think did we say? Yeah, we would offer eight hours of executive coaching to faculty who became new chairs and I’ll tell you, it was so wildly popular that when Ethan Dmitrovsky [oral history interview] got here, he didn’t know anything about coaching, he said, ‘What is this?’ He has expanded it enormously. It’s in retention packages now, it’s offered to section heads. I sometimes just go ahead and offer it to section heads who are having some difficulties, because they have these strange positions where they don’t really have authority over people, so they’re trying to work through people by influence and it’s tough. Ethan has embraced it fully, and so we have tremendous coaching opportunities.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s very interesting.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

And then I went off and did a coaching certification for two years, and so I do a lot of coaching too. It’s really helped me as a leader and as a—yeah, as a leader, so I’ve coached a lot of faculty now.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

How would you describe yourself as a leader, you know what’s your style, what are your strengths, what are the things that you find you need support with?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

I’m a good big picture person, I can identify and spot trends pretty quickly. I’m not afraid of bringing in new ideas and I hire pretty good people and give them a lot of room. I am a voluminous reader, not just of leadership stuff, because a lot of it is garbage or if not, it’s boring, but I’m a big reader of literature and history, and so I learn from that almost more. There’s a wonderful scholar named James March, at Stanford, and he says you can’t teach leadership development, it’s all about character. So, he teaches leadership development through the great works; Cervantes, Shakespeare, Racine, Moliere, you know, yeah, Thomas Mann, I mean he’s got the—George Bernard Shaw. He’s got articles, and they’re not easy by the way, but he’s saying, it’s not easy to read them because they’re very scholarly and very deep, but he says you’ve got to look at human behavior, you have to look at yourself, and you look at these characters in Shakespeare, you know, what drives them. Where are their flaws, their fatal flaws? When do they get jealous, when do they get envious, when do they fail to read the politics?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What are some of your favorite instances from literature or history, that kind of really framed key leadership issues for you?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

That’s a big question. Well, I would certainly say the Shakespearean plays, which I studied a lot, because I’m an English major. I’m always interested in the Hamlets and the Macbeths and the Othellos, and how easily they fall victim to themselves, you know? I’m interested in those kinds of behaviors, and the human personality, the insight into the human personality. Someone who’d influenced me a lot is Rumi, the Islamic poet, and Idries Shah, who was head of the Sufis and a great scholar, died maybe 15 years ago. I read a lot of his work and he said, you can’t possibly know anything about spirituality unless you read literature, philosophy, psychology, cultural anthropology, history, I mean like it’s all about human beings and their nature and what they do. So I learned a lot from him. Who else? Colette, whom I adore, and her self-revealing kind of way of going through life examining herself and being very open about who she was and mistakes she made and well, things she did. I like those kinds of writers, who are able to go inside themselves and really, you know. I always thought I’d be a writer like that, but I’m afraid of that exposure.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting. Do you find that—I’m not sure how to ask this question. It’s a question about people’s willingness to be self-reflective if they’re not in the habit. Do you find that people expect, coming to a Faculty Development program and expect to be self-reflective, is that a surprise, do they resist it? What have you discovered about people in that particular facet?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Some people are very self-reflective, naturally and willingly do it, and some are extremely guarded. We had one cohort where two division heads literally said this is bullshit in the middle of it, and got up and left. One of them is no longer a division head, one is still a division head but known for that kind of inability, unwillingness to go there. So, you know, some of them, they just were terrified. It made them extremely uncomfortable, but then when you see everybody else around you, you’re sitting down having a conversation with four other people, about your Myers-Briggs and so on, it kind of melts them a little bit. But there are some who seem to get it but then walk out and nothing changes for them, and there are others who are very defended. Younger ones are much more open.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

They’re kind of used to this stuff, you know, they’ve been exposed to a certain extent.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, there was a whole shift in even primary and secondary education, to group projects. Suddenly it was no longer, you have to do your own book report and make sure nobody copies you, but now suddenly, you’re supposed to do a group book report, you know.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

See, I would hate that. I love the, I’ll do it on my own, thank you very much.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yes. But then I wouldn’t mind creating something where everybody gives their own book report, but we all collaborate on the event, you know?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Exactly, exactly. What I have learned is that—and I was amused, because I was reading this last night in the preface to the new book by Linda Hill that I just bought, and the guy who wrote part of the preface is actually, he partnered with Linda on the actual writing. He’s a writer plus he’s done leadership development. He was talking about working for some guy named Sterling, I don’t know who it was, but a guy who taught and developed many theories around leadership development, was a terrific teacher, but he said the guy was a horrible manager and he knew it. I mean, he wasn’t a great leader, he was a lousy leader. I sometimes think that of myself, you know, that I’m a good idea person and I’m creative. I’ll tell you, I can attract consultant a mile a minute, because I can relate and I get excited and I read their stuff and then, you know, we get on the same wavelength, there’s sort of an intellectual connection. That doesn’t mean that I’m a great leader or manager, and those are two separate roles of course. I think I’ve been, in the bigger sense of the word, a leader within MD Anderson, but I don’t consider myself a brilliant leader of my—I’m introverted. I like to go in my office and work on my own, make my own connections. I don’t like being in teams where people have to all participate, believe it or not, and yet I go in and work with teams and participate with them and blah-blah-blah. See, the blah-blah-blah, you heard the blah-blah-blah, that’s how I feel sometimes, it drains me.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sure.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

It drains my energy and I don’t get excited by it, I get pissed off.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

But it’s different when, you know, because it sounds to me like a lot of the situations where you work on teams, you’re almost on the margin of the team. You can go into the team and say let me help you do X, but then you can go away, you can back away from it. That’s a different structural position with a group.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Now I would—I was always fascinated by people like Bill Gates, who would take reading vacations. Bill Gates, before he was married and had kids, would take two vacations a year and take 20 or 30 books with him, and he’d spend ten days and he’d read through all this stuff. He sometimes had a girlfriend with him or a friend with him and they would talk about that. I like that kind of thing, because I understand a mind like that. You know, you can get very bogged down or taken up with the dailyness of things, and then when you try to pick up a book at night… I usually have five to ten books going at the same time, and when I’m really distracted, I can’t get into any of them, and I like to lose myself. I like to be so engrossed that nobody could possibly pull my nose out of that book. I have a couple now, that I know are going to be like that. So that’s what I need. I need those kinds of vacations where I take piles of books. When I travel, I take piles of books, and on the plane I just lose myself. But, I’d bring these things back, I just don’t like—I bring them back to my work, they inform my work. We had a meeting this morning and it was really policy and procedure and all that. Oh my God, I just hate it. That’s why I’ve redesigned my job.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s right, well and you have the luxury of doing that right now.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yeah, and I talked to my boss and said I’m going to—you know, I need to give these guys a chance to manage this and do what they want to do, and I want to do what I want to do for the next couple of years, when I’m still here. It’s not going to be easy, because it means setting up advisory groups and some of it’s stuff I just don’t like, but because I want to finish this piece of work, I’m pretty motivated around it. But you know, I think if you’re self-reflective you say, you know I’m pretty good at this but I’m really lousy at that, so I need two or three people who can do these other things, because I have no interest and I’m not good at it. Social media, I’m terrible at social media. Janice Simon is brilliant, loves it, she is the social media guru over there, and she doesn’t mind putting her name out and quotes and here’s what I did this weekend, that kind of stuff, so good for her.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Different gifts.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yeah, right, different gifts.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

The world runs on no one.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Exactly.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And we were all the same. I mean, when I did Myers-Briggs, as I was part of an organization that was trying to make some positive change, I realized that the person I enjoyed working with the most was very much like me, which of course meant that we had all the same weaknesses and we shouldn’t work together, because there were certain things that never got done. That was a really good lesson for me, so yeah, organizational universes work with different gifts, that’s really key. Absolutely, absolutely.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

We had a team we worked with, Fred Schmitt and I. Fred Schmitt and I have done quite a few team alignments around the country. Around the country, around the institution a lot actually, and he’s done far more than I have, but I’ve been very lucky to work with him on many of them. I’ll tell you, the behavior you see is unbelievable sometimes, because Fred doesn’t back off, he doesn’t give them a pass, you know? So when they’re showing bad behavior in front of their chair or in the team or whatever, he really pushes them on it, and he stands there and he says, “So what’s that all about?” So how do you think you’re going to deal with that. And we came across a team that had stalled out entirely, because two guys had a massive blowout over authorship, and that team stayed twisting in the wind for two years, sitting on $50 million that a donor group had given to them in order to make progress on this specific cancer. And so behind that were patients waiting for results, right, and they couldn’t get past it. These multidisciplinary teams of course, have come from different parts of the institution, so each of these guys had a different chair, and the chairs couldn’t resolve it, the division heads.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I mean, as you’re telling this story, I mean I’ve been with, worked with consultants that have addressed those kinds of issues too, and what’s amazing is that everybody thinks that the critical issue is some little interpersonal problem, and they don’t want to spend the time or the money, or endure the social discomfort of addressing it in a meeting, and yet look at the consequences that you just outlined, and there are consequences like that for all kinds of institutional fracas that come down to a “little interpersonal issue.” People want to shy away and shy away. It’s just astounding to me that more people, they don’t—people don’t understand the value of stepping up and address it, or that they don’t appreciate the people who have the skills to do it, so it’s very instructive.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Look at even the election going on now, the presidential election, or you look back in history, just the last three decades say, at what’s happened with various presidents and where they have been successful or had impact, and where they haven’t, and the mistakes sometimes are just one sentence that they have said during the middle of a stressful busy day when they’re exhausted. You can see the exhaustion on their faces. I mean I’m fascinated by Obama. He is brilliant, the guy, I’m sure is going to write some fascinating books when he gets out of this presidency, but he’s an introvert. He is a real loner. He likes to have his close relationship with his wife and I don’t know who else, his two daughters, and a small, small group of people. What’s her name, [Valerie] Jarrett, whatever her name is, his advisor, but not—but he was never able to make those relationships across the Congress.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

He’s not built for it, not wired for it.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

No, no.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

He’s a scholar, a thinker, not a schmoozer.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Not a schmoozer. And there’s Bill Clinton, who’s really effective in so many ways, probably very effective around the world with his foundation, really genuinely empathic and a real lover of people, a huge extrovert, full of flaws and he knows it, and he hasn’t published much. He’s not a scholar.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

It’s fascinating isn’t it?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

It is fascinating.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

People who get these jobs, like Ron DePinho. Well, this case study of leadership that we’ve had recently, over the last four years, and I wonder how Dr. DePinho thinks and how he sees himself. I’d be curious. I would love to sit down and have an hour-long conversation with him about what have you learned. He actually did come to the Leadership Academy two weeks ago, and I sent him in advance—first of all, I sent it to Craig Henderson, an HBR blog item called four things that sink—the four most common things that sink executives in their first few years, and it was very insightful, I thought it was really good. So I sent it to Craig and I said would he be offended if I sent it to him saying, you know, you’re long past the 18 months period, they’re talking about executives who failed within 18 months to two years. But there’s some really interesting points that are made in here, about the challenge of accepting a leadership role, a big leadership role. Would you be interested in reflecting on any of these? If not, because you’re always brilliant when you come in and do a presentation, just talk about what you like. Well, he came in, he had a note card, and he sat there and he reflected on some of the things in the blog. He didn’t say, you know Janis sent me a blog item. No, ah-ah, but as I’m listening to him I’m thinking, he read that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

He did.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

He read it, he’s thought about it, he pointed out some things, like for instance, one of the points they made was be careful of the information you get, because unless you get down under your top level, you’re going to hear the same thing from everybody pretty much, and they’re going to reinforce what you think. So you need to make sure you’re hearing from other people. Well that’s true enough. You know things like that, about what leaders do that isolate themselves. So he did, he reflected on those things, very well actually, what it means to be a leader. The taking care of self, the complexity, the hugeness of it.

Chapter 05: Reflecting on Leadership Qualities

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