Team Leader Equals Success

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By: Michael A. Caligiuri, MD
Director, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center
Chief Executive Officer, James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

A mere 10 years ago, a biomedical researcher had very little contact with a clinical researcher, let alone a practicing physician or other health professional. But then again, 10 years ago the secrets of the human genome were just beginning to emerge, and biomedical informatics and biotechnology were still in their infancy.

Fast-forward to the leading academic medical centers of today, and you find that the most successful model for innovation is one that promotes a multidisciplinary and integrated approach to medical research and patient care. This brave new world requires a new kind of leader, one who can bring teams of individuals – from different disciplines and speaking different “languages” – together to solve complex patient-care issues and translate the most promising research discoveries into effective, appropriate therapies.

The guiding principles for leaders in this environment are mutual respect and mutual purpose. And while these individuals may sometimes appear to be facilitators more than leaders, their strength is in their ability to keep the team focused on these guiding principles and the role each person on the team plays in achieving them. Our most effective physicians, scientists, administrators and middle managers are those who can promote this kind of team culture.

What do you do in your organization to promote “team problem-solving” and interaction across disciplines?

What do you believe are the most important characteristics of an effective team leader?

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3 responses to “Team Leader Equals Success

  1. How to assist Team Leaders AND Members to value and harness their differences and to improve their relationship-centered communication skills is critical to all multidisciplinary collaborations achieving their potentials. As Dr. Longenecker notes time to “dwell with” other team members is required—and yet this time is often lackng –with up to 60 people on 1 hr conference calls! Findings from the emerging Science of Team Science (eg assessing scientists’ “collaboration readiness” ) may help AMCs get their “heads” out of their “silos” and address what they can do differenty to harness the enormous potentials of their CTSIs.

  2. This style of leadership requires significant “dwelling with” other team members – time being with each other to better appreciate and understand others’ perspectives, as well as mutual commitment to working with one another in this way. I find it difficult to “lead from above,” unless there are intentional structures and spaces set in place to allow this type of interaction.

  3. Excellent conceptual model of team leader. I fully agree that the process of mutual respect and mutual purpose is vital to team development/leadership. This mutual respect/purpose should be the primary mission of all clinicians/researchers because in the end our singular purpose is to help people.

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