Pearls of wisdom from ED leaders

Emergency medicine has its own unique challenges involving leadership, people skills, time management, and setting boundaries in a job that has none.

Each month, ED Management will ask an ED leader to share some words of wisdom with our readers. This issue features Gail V. Anderson, MD, professor and chairman of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Southern California School of Medicine in Los Angeles.

Anderson composed the following five lists of essential tips for ED managers:

Effective leadership

• Know what you are supposed to lead.

• Lead by example and precept.

• Always keep your word. (If you can’t, have a sound, justifiable reason.)

• Familiarity has no place in professionalism and doesn’t promote the respect that is essential to being an effective leader.

• Really listen to your staff — they may have already worked out the problem.

• Never demean your staff.

• Do not criticize your staff in front of others. People who feel free to criticize others when they are not present will soon be doing the same to you when you are not present.

• Hyperbole and distorted metaphors tend to erode your credibility.

• Don't patronize your staff. False praise and insincere, noncritical evaluation of your staff’s projects or proposals stunt their growth and destroy your credibility.

• Be less worried about your own credit, but be sure your associates get their due credit.

• Don’t give the appearance that you are too busy to listen to your staff and their problems.

• Don’t micromanage or oversupervise your staff. Give them the assignment or task, but let them use their own ingenuity on how to best accomplish the job.

• Don’t spend a lot of time fixing blame, but explore ways to avoid the unfavorable occurrence.

• Avoid duplicity. Playing both ends against the middle (your group) destroys the entire group.

• Enjoy your work; productive people are happy people.

People skills

• Treat people with respect if you expect to be respected.

• Try to understand the other person’s point of view.

• Show genuine interest in the other person.

• Don’t spend conversation time belittling others.

• Don't tell a joke that demeans or promotes laughter unless you think the object person would feel comfortable and not feel that you are making fun of them.

• There are many things that happen in everyday activities that are humorous that do not cause hurt feelings and are not vulgar.

• Beware of self-adulation and self- flagellation.

• Don’t be easily puffed up by compliments; a simple thank-you will suffice.

• Don’t gauge the significance of your statement by the laugh it generates.

• Don’t postdate or antedate. Play it straight.

Negotiating skills

• Do your homework — have all the facts in hand.

• Anticipate the question, and do a practice session with a colleague posing as the other person or group with whom you expect to egotiate.

• Negotiate for more than you expect because the other person needs to believe that he or she gave less than you asked for, but make sure your requests are reasonable. Inflated demands destroy your credibility.

• You must show respect and not demean the person with whom you are negotiating, but be careful not to give false praise, or it will be interpreted as manipulation.

• Try to show that what you are negotiating for will benefit both you and the other person or group.


• Success is the achievement and the genuine feeling of satisfaction that you have accomplished what you set out to do.

• Don’t spend too much time admiring your most recent success. Move on to the next project, or the creative juices will dry up.

• Your success probably would not have been possible without others, so share the glory.

• You don’t always have to be the first to recognize and react to opportunity, but don’t be the last either.

• You don’t have to be the biggest, but strive to be the best.

Setting boundaries when none exist

• Goals should have a reasonable chance of achievability.

• Don’t spend time trying to solve the other person’s or department’s problem. There are problems in your own arena that need your effort and mental reserve.

• Don’t try to solve the world’s problems now; clean your own backyard first, then move on to the other solvable problems.