Our first running series for FemInEM is the WYLS Series: What’s Your Leadership Style. We will be asking FemInEMs all over the world to share their leadership styles with us.
Our first leader is Dr. Michelle Welsford. Dr. Welsford has been practicing as an Emergency Physician and EMS Physician for over 15 years at Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. As an Associate Professor at McMaster University, she teaches undergraduate medical students, residents and EMS fellows in addition to working on research off the “corner of her desk”. She has volunteered with the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada to work on the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) Consensus on Science and Treatment Recommendations and the American Heart Association Emergency Cardiac Care and CPR guidelines for over 10 years, most recently as the Acute Coronary Syndrome Co-Chair for the ILCOR 2015 publication, due to be published in October 2015. She has learned some valuable leadership skills from her male mentors, and hopes that she can help support more women to take leadership roles in Emergency Medicine, EMS, and resuscitation.
What is your leadership style? How did you arrive at this style?
No single leadership style will work in all situations. We need to be flexible and use different styles in different situations.
In the ED, we often need to make quick decisions. During a cardiac arrest I might use authoritative leadership. However, there is rarely a need to make such quick decisions in administrative or hospital leadership roles. Women tend to be more collaborative/democratic leaders, but this takes far more time than some styles and so can’t be used too often or you will stall progress. I use collaboration early on when we are considering a big change for a group. It is ideal to get the collective wisdom and ideas from a group and assists with buy-in. I use coaching with senior residents and my direct reports – help support them and encourage them to make their own decisions in a safe-environment where they can try something new. This is where I get my “energy”: helping others try something new, learn something new and succeed.
Who is your leadership hero and why?
Early in my career, I worked with a few “successful” leaders that used authoritative and sometimes coercive leadership. I realized early on, that I couldn’t be successful by emulating these leadership styles. I needed to find a way to be more authentic. Dr. Brian Schwartz is a very successful leader that is quiet, collaborative, and has very successfully led multi-disciplinary groups to create policies and guidelines that positively impact thousands. He taught me the most valuable lessons on how to listen more. Solutions don’t need to come from me; as a leader, I need to listen to the team to find the solutions.
Have you accrued any insights from which other aspiring female leaders might benefit?
Medicine can be competitive, and many physicians have been successful by being correct and direct. Women physicians who show these qualities can sometimes be labeled as “b*tches”. Women physicians need to form friendships, collaborations, and learn that helping someone else succeed is what will allow all of us to succeed. I need more women mentors and I would love to collaborate with and coach more new woman leaders. Open up to the strength of the strong women around you.