Category: thought leadership

When and Where Can Someone Be a Leader?

When and Where Can Someone Be a Leader?

This blog post is the third in a five-part series focused on the topic of leadership. In my previous posts, I talked about what leadership is as well as who can be a leader. In this post, I will focus on the when and where of leadership. The questions I will answer are two-fold:

  1. When can someone be a leader?
  2. Where can someone be a leader?

Let’s start with the first question – the “when” of leadership. You are likely familiar with the saying that “there is no time like the present moment.” I certainly believe that to be true with regard to leadership. If leadership is the act of leading others, then only when someone seizes the moment are they truly being a leader. Leadership is not a future-oriented stance or action. Leadership takes place in the moment. This moment. Right now. As much as we may want to, we cannot lead in the past, nor can we lead in the future. We can only lead right now, in this moment.

This means that even if we weren’t leaders in the past, we can be leaders now. We also don’t have to wait for a future date or time to lead. We just have to decide to lead and engage in the act of leading others. When we procrastinate and promise to lead “later” or “tomorrow” then unfortunately the future will look a lot more like today, meaning later or tomorrow never comes because it’s a moving target. Our point of power, what I sometimes call the point of creation, is in this present moment: not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, right now. If, through our leadership and the leadership of other people, we can execute and perform in this moment, then we can do the same in the next moment. And then the next moment. Again, and again and again, from one moment to the next. The present moment (the now) is when, and only when, someone can be a leader.

Now let’s turn our attention to the “where” of leadership. Fortunately, in leadership, the “when” as well as the “where” have less to do with fixed criteria and everything to do with mindset. If a person can only lead in this moment (“when”) then it matters not where they are as long as they are engaged in the act of leading. I argue that it doesn’t matter where they are because there is no specific “where” that we need to be: not at a podium, or behind a desk, or in a conference room. We can lead wherever we happen to be. In fact, the only place where we can lead is right where we are. And in leading from where we are, our leadership can cause positive impact elsewhere. As Madeleine Albright said, “What matters anywhere, matters everywhere.”

The knowledge that the when and where of leadership are not external factors imposed on us can sometimes be overwhelming. “Where” and “when” can be convenient “if only” excuses (“If only I had been promoted, I would have stepped into a leadership role”) when we don’t feel confident in fully engaging in leadership. When we are faced with the truth that neither the where nor the when are actually holding us back, it becomes possible for us to be leaders right here, right now.

Rather than be intimidated by this possibility, we can embrace it. We can change how we think about leadership so that we are looking for opportunities to be leaders every day, no matter where we are. And wouldn’t you know it – here we are.

3D Printing Innovations Can Save Lives

In the United States alone, almost 114,000 people are currently on a waitlist for an organ transplant. According to the American Transplant Foundation, each day an average of 20 waitlisted patients die because of the lack of viable donor organs.

Thanks to advancements in 3d printing technologies, scientists have developed a potential solution to the organ donor shortage. As profiled in this month’s Science cover story, bioengineers from Rice University and the University of Washington, along with collaborators from Duke University, Rowan University and design studio Nervous System, have created a new process that would, in theory, make it possible to 3D print human tissues and organs.

Stereolithography apparatus for tissue engineering, or SLATE, is an additive printing process in which blue light is used to harden certain portions of very thin layers of hydrogel, allowing remaining portions to remain soft and malleable. The ability to have alternating states makes it possible to mimic the structure of the human lung, in air must move through air sacs without causing them to burst.

The scientists were able to “print” a model of the human lung at a size of about a penny. Over time, researchers are optimistic that they will be able to 3D print full-size lungs, and eventually expand into other organ types like livers, kidneys, and hearts. What’s more, the process is expected to involve the use of a patient’s own cells as part of the printing. This would reduce the risk to the patient of the body rejecting the new organ. These innovations are technologically fascinating, but more importantly, they could save the lives of hundreds of people per year and spare countless others from having to lose their loved ones.

You can see the model in action in this video from Rice University.

Who Can Be a Leader?

Who Can Be a Leader | Nueterra Capital

Now that we’ve established what leadership is, who can be a leader? If we accept that it is the act of leading that makes someone a leader then logic dictates that anyone who is engaged in this way is by definition a leader.

For years, people have debated whether leaders are born (nature) or made (nurture). While there has yet to be a universally accepted, definitive answer, the truth seems to be … both. Some people meet the criteria for being “natural born leaders.” At the other end of the spectrum, some people who showed no aptitude or inclination for leadership early in life have developed it and become very effective. Some leaders are born and some leaders are made. Both can be true. In fact, F. Scott Fitzgerald said that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

What is universally true, though, is that every person has the potential to be a leader. We can help others develop their leadership potential by coaching, guiding, and supporting them. In this way, we draw out their unique leadership abilities and create the foundation for developing new leadership capacities. Thomas J. Colligan, Vice Dean and Director of The Wharton School’s Aresty Institute of Executive Education, explains this concept as the 60/20/20 Rule: Twenty percent of people will fail no matter what. Twenty percent of people will succeed no matter what. The remaining 60% will succeed, if you do the right thing.

The next time you hear someone say that an organization is lacking leadership, consider that, if the 60/20/20 Rule is right, over 60% of the organization could become leaders if given the right tools and support. That’s a tremendous opportunity. The questions worth asking are: What is your organization doing to nurture the 60%? What are you doing to help others “become what they are capable of becoming?”

What Is Leadership?

What Is Leadership? | Nueterra Capital

We’ve all heard the word “leadership,” and it’s usually spoken without any additional definition. Speakers and writers assume that their audiences know what “leadership” means, so the word continues to make its way through conversations without any confirmation that everyone is on the same page about what it actually represents.

I think the most fundamental part of leadership is clearly understanding what the concept means. The etymology of “leadership” dates back to 1821, when it literally meant “the person who holds the position of commander of the ship.” That origin isn’t particularly helpful, because if we assume that anyone who has a certain kind of title or position is a true leader simply because of that title or position, we will likely be disappointed. What I mean by that is, being in a leadership position doesn’t necessarily make anyone a leader.

So what is leadership? It’s the action of leading. It doesn’t exist by simply occupying a seat at the head of the table. It’s positive action taken to create a vision, inspire others around that vision, and the management of all resources towards the execution of that vision.

Although we often use them as synonyms, leadership is not mentoring, coaching, guiding people, or supporting them. These are ways that leadership can be demonstrated, but they are not truly synonyms. A person can coach someone, but doesn’t make the person a leader, much like helping someone board a train doesn’t make me a conductor. For me, the most accurate definition of leadership is “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.” In essence, it’s the act of leading that makes someone a leader. The act of leading can and will look very different from moment to moment.

If we can separate and remove the elements of position or title from the leadership equation, then we are left with what people say and what they do. I’m a big believer that “talk is cheap” and that “actions speak louder than words.” It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Well done is better than well said.”

“Every day the opportunity for leadership stands before you…Each day brings you opportunities to raise important questions, speak to higher values, and surface unresolved conflicts. Every day you have the chance to make a difference in the lives of people around you…Leadership opportunities beckon daily.”
~Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Leadership on the Line

When we conflate the position or the title we have with the act of leading, then we miss out on what truly makes leadership unique among all other qualities. Leadership is a behavioral intelligence that requires us to act. From my perspective, the only questions leadership questions worth entertaining are: What leadership opportunities are beckoning you? Will you answer their call?

Using Virtual Reality to Improve Healthcare Delivery and Increase Patient Retention

Virtual Reality in Healthcare | Nueterra Capital

Physician empathy has been shown to lead to better clinical outcomes for patients and reduced burnout for physicians. But it’s something that schools and facilities have struggled to effectively teach: how do you put a provider in the the shoes of a patient while also maintaining the separation necessary to provide appropriate care?

More and more schools and hospitals are looking to virtual reality, or VR, to teach medical providers empathy by giving them realistic insights into patients’ specific situations. At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, residents train with Oculus VR goggles that simulate high-stakes pediatric events so that they can get comfortable making the right decisions even when adrenaline is running high. Oculus plans to expand this technology into 11 other institutions and healthcare providers.

For the past year, students at the University of California Irvine Medical School have used VR technology provided by Los Angeles-based Embodied Labs. Virtual simulations allow providers to experience what it’s like to have a disease or medical condition. The fully immersive simulations “put” the medical students into their patient’s body, allowing them to experience medical challenges firsthand. While patient testimonials still play a role in educating healthcare providers, the virtual environment gives providers a deeper understanding of the physical and emotional issues a patient is facing. This, in turn, creates empathy in the provider and trust by the patient. It also reduces the risk of error due to miscommunication.

Now, students at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine are using Embodied’s end-of-life experience to develop empathy for terminal patients. Because of its immersive capabilities, virtual reality experience is uniquely able to spark empathy in students who have never had a near-death experience themselves. Previous work with VR at the New England College of Medicine in the field of age-related medical issues showed that the practitioners’ empathy for patients increased as a result of the VR experiences.

In addition to end-of-life, Embodied also offers virtual experiences for Alzheimer’s disease and  macular degeneration. Each experience is specifically programmed to replicate the challenges faced by a patient with that condition; for example, the macular degeneration experience places a black spot in the eye of the viewer, who must then try to navigate an office visit and the filling out of patient forms. Embodied Labs’ website states that more experiences are in development.

Existing virtual reality capabilities are creating better experiences for patients and more compassionate providers. As more simulations are created and technologies improve, hospitals and healthcare providers will be able to humanize healthcare to an even greater extent.