A Higher Purpose of Leadership

I was reading a book called Leading At A Higher Level by Ken Blanchard and I was really intrigued about how he redefined what leadership really is.  Here is an excerpt:

We believed that anytime you tried to influence the thoughts and actions of others toward goal accomplishment in either your personal or professional life you were engaging in leadership. In recent years, The Ken Blanchard Companies has changed its definition of leadership to “the capacity to influence others by unleashing the potential and power of people and organizations for the greater good.” We made this change for an important reason. When the definition of leadership focuses only on goal accomplishment, some people think that leadership is only about results. The key phrase in our new definition is “the greater good”-what is best for all involved. We think leadership is a high calling. Leadership should not be purely for personal gain or goal accomplishment; it should have a much higher purpose than that.

I believe doctors are leaders.  We are leaders for our staffs and for our patients and we SHOULD be leaders of the healthcare system.   Did you know that is why Walt Disney named the leader of the Seven Dwarfs “Doc?  It’s true because back then physicians were respected and were always thought of as leaders.  As a physician I never thought about “goals”.  My goal was to become a doctor and then to help people.   I love how Blanchard talks about the greater good because that is what I believe doctors try to accomplish.  We try to help the individual person and treat patients as people….NOT NUMBERS.

Unfortunately, now there are NEW leaders trying to run the healthcare system.  They are ONLY about the numbers in spite of the greater good or greater bad.  For them it is damn the evidence and keep going because I want my plaque to prove how good I am .  Once again I am talking about the businesspeople (insurers, administrators, government) who are pushing for pay-for-performance, for quality indicators, and to judge doctors by the labs and measurements of their patients.  This is not why we became doctors.  The is not what is best for all involved and this is not leadership as a higher calling.  This is leadership ONLY for goal accomplishment and personal gain and there is no higher purpose in that.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  7 comments for “A Higher Purpose of Leadership

  1. mamadoc
    February 7, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Pitcrew sounds good until the feces hits the fan. Then in the end guess whose responsibility it is? “Team” would ring a whole lot truer if everybody shared the liablity AND responsibility equally but they don’t. At least not on any health care “team” I’ve had any experience with.

    • Doug Farrago
      February 7, 2012 at 8:56 pm


  2. Joel Crane
    February 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted” A. Einstein.

  3. Wilton Kennedy
    February 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    being a leader is more than being in charge of 6 other dwarfs.. Doctors sre still respected and usually are the defacto leader of the healthcare team. However, leadership for the ‘greater good’ involves collaborating, teamwork and listening to iother involved in patinet care. Pitcrews, not Lone rangers as Atul Gawande like to say…

    • Doug Farrago
      February 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      The “lone ranger” doc is just another stereotype that needs to go. So should “cowboy”, etc. I agree with most of your statement and not all doctors are leaders but right now the non doctors are the wrong people for the job.

  4. January 29, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Doug as ever, you are insightful with your pieces and in so doing, exhibit genuine leadership. Blanchard’s “greater good” however is, I fear, fraught with peril. The greater good is often the rhetorical leverage for those who seek only their own ends, whereas one who says up front that he’s out for himself is likely more honest and offering a better deal. Therein is a good paradox, where those presently seeking to orchestrate all human activity by using fearfulness and a broken health system do so publicly for the “greater good”, which in turn gains for them more power. The utilitarian stampede of good intentions toward justified ends will be made over the broken lives and dreams, casualties whose harm was acceptable to the majority. The 20th Century was a rogue’s gallery of genuine leaders who accomplished their own aggrandizement while exhorting for the greater good.

    • Doug Farrago
      January 29, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      Appreciate the complement. The real leaders of great companies (probably not gov’t) exhibit these traits and I think Blanchard is right. You can be honest, be out for the greater good, and be profitable. Those genuine leaders you mention were not genuine at all.

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