A report in the British Columbia Medical Journaldisclosed that doctors, whom many believe are still among the most respected in the field of professional services, have one of the highest rates of unhappiness (Edwars, Kornacki & Silversin, 2002). The report distills interviews and information obtained from practicing professionals and provides several reasons for the discontent. Surprisingly, compensation and work hours were not considered a primary factor, but rather the perception of others as reflected through mass media and the belief that the general medical ethos has been changed. These findings suggest that individuals in high profile professions connect their sense of happiness much closer to how they believe others perceive them, rather than how they really are.

What thiair-84665_1280s provides the contemporary leader is an understanding of what motivate and inspires themselves and others in their industry.

Like many high profile occupations, health-care providers can be viewed as individual troopers, rather than team members. Law enforcement practitioners are similarly fated, as are others. Another commonality found in these professions is the preferred individualistic approach to attaining and maintaining their professional status. With the possible exception of medical research, most high-profile specialists seek and are credited with individual accomplishments; the first heart transplant (1967, by Dr. Christiaan Neethling Barnard) or the first Artificial heart transplant (1969, by Dr. Denton Cooley), and others.
F. Lee bailey, renown criminal defense lawyer known for some of the most notable cases in history including the 1954 Sam Sheppard case which inspired the Fugitive television series and several movies; the ‘Boston Strangler’ case, and the more recent successful defense of O.J. Simpson. Due to the high expectations from the public, the media and in keeping with their own reputation, a significant amount of stress is placed on these individual performers, which contributes to unhappiness.
What this understanding offers the effective leader is another avenue for achieving happiness by de-linking (separating) the perception of others from their independent sense of self-worth. This is not to suggest that what others think about a service, performance or ability is unimportant, but rather offers the leader valuable team-building opportunities. By applying a team approach to solutions, the stress of success or failure is shared amongst several individuals rather than shouldered by one alone. In many cases the challenge will be in how to” motivate the individual to authentically participate as a team member and turn off their “ego-beacon”. When leaders can encourage the high performers to realize and adopt the attitude that ,”it’s not about me”, and cause them to act based on a community approach toward betterment, then the ethos that serve as the foundation for the organization, whether it’s in the medical field, media industry, or ministry can be repaired.Attitude 1

The military basic training embodies this concept as well as any industry in the country. Regardless of how fast, strong, or effective the individual might be the success or failure of a mission is never shouldered by them alone. The basic training model looks to break down the individualism and rebuild the team concept. If one were to ask any former military person, they will inevitably credit successful incidents or adverse encounters to a team, squad, group or unit rather than themselves. This isn’t false modesty, it’s an indication that service is a team sport – not an individual activity.

So what is the take-away or the “so what?” Effective leaders look for opportunities to team-build, collaborate and cooperate – ineffective leaders look for self-aggrandizing prospects where they become the focus of success rather than the facilitator. A powerful step that any effective leader can take today to improve personal and organizational job satisfaction would be to discover the persons most essential to the success of a project and verbally appreciate them. Not in an act of false humility or insincere accolades, but as an authentic gesture of gratitude.
Dr. Matthews


Nigel Edwards, Mary Jane Kornacki, & Jack Silversin, (2002). Unhappy doctors: What are the causes and what can be done? British Medical Journal, 324(7341), 835-8.doi: 10.1136/bmj.324.7341.835

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