Mind Your Ps and Q: A Pathway to Leadership

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On several occasions, I have been asked to speak to groups of early career electrophysiologists about how to become leaders in the field. This seemingly simple task has proven more difficult for me than I had realized. I did not chart my career using some long‐lost treasure map; rather, I had a set of goals and tried my best to pursue them. Along the way, I learned many valuable lessons, some by mistakes not repeated, and I have based my lecture on those factors that worked for me. I make no claims to having all the answers, and I know there are alternative methods, but for me the following factors have proved very useful.
Passion: I think it is difficult to be successful at something you do not really like doing. Very few of us are born with such an abundance of natural talent that minimal effort is required to accomplish our goals. Most acquire skills by working hard. So, success begins with the “fire in the belly” to advance and become the best you can be. I have always viewed clinical electrophysiology as my profession, not the job at which I work. Indeed, the morning I awake and say I am going to work is the day I know it is time to do something else.
Punctuality: Ever wonder about the validity of the adage “The early bird gets the worm?” Being first in line is usually a good thing. The 30ish crowd might find it difficult to communicate the way we did 30 years ago—by phone and letters (emails and text messages did not exist)! Upon returning to my office from the electrophysiology laboratory or seeing patients, I would be greeted by a pile of phone messages. I returned all calls as soon as possible, and learned the important lesson of availability. Older clinicians will tell you the path to building a successful practice is to follow AAA, in this order: availability, affability, and ability (sadly, ability does not count as much with patients, who often judge their doctor more on the first two attributes). By being prompt, I became available, and referrals increased. In addition, I realized that my contacts in industry would often call me first when they were looking for someone to consult or to discuss a new therapeutic protocol. Thus, my commitment to being punctual opened many doors for me and was one of the most valuable lessons I learned.
Preparedness: My father, who was a pediatric cardiologist, told me early in my career that he thought less of lecturers who would skip slides in their presentation, because it sent the message that this was merely a canned talk given by someone who was unprepared to deliver the current lecture. I never forgot that point. A few years into my career, I received an invitation to participate in a consultant meeting, which concerned a new drug for angina that seemed to cause ventricular arrhythmias. Though I was a mere assistant professor in the midst of a room of full professors, I was the only electrophysiologist and the one asked to speak to this issue. It was in the days of the slide trays (yes, there was an era before PowerPoint), and the talks were scheduled for 10 minutes. I worked hard to prepare 8–10 slides that would get my points across. Most of the consultants spoke before I did and exceeded their time allotment. I kept to my game plan even though I worried that my part would seem anemic in comparison.
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