I am finding that using a blog as a way to create assignments for you, my students, is a bit challenging. The nature of most blog posts is to write reflectively, as if in one's own personal diary. Creating assignments is something else. :-) In one case, the issue is when an idea seems "ready" to be expressed. The other case is a matter of the calendar and the clock. I am a little behind in posting assignments right now, which suggests that this is still a blog, which is good.
I read a lot and our course is the theme of most of what I am currently reading. I have recently discovered Joseph S. Bujak as an author. He is a physician who has become an administrator. I am learning from the insights he has derived from his experiences. I often don't like what he has concluded, but the world is not necessarily what I would like it to be and I find his perspectives thought provoking. I am, perhaps, too much a idealist. As a physician who has become an administrator he, perhaps, has a "license" to say or suggest some things that those who are not physicians cannot say or suggest.
The gulf between hospital administrators and many physicians is frequently reported. Policy experts seem to be of the opinion that the only way Accountable Care Organizations may work is if they are led by administrators who are also physicians. I am sure that there are instances in which administrators and physicians have good and constructive relationships. But I question that administrators who are first physicians necessarily have a greater ability to work with other physicians. I read somewhere that the gulf is about the battle of the apostrophe. In other words, administrators by training and dispostion are primarily concerned about patients' interests; while physicians by training and disposition are concerned primarily about the interests of particular patients. In my idealism (a luxury of teachers) I want to believe that people can change and that it is possible for people of good will to learn from each other's perspectives. I want to believe that even as people age they can remain pliable. Yet in professional cultures (such as medicine and higher education) people cling tightly to the values acquired during training and years of practice. I believe that Bujak somewhere wrote, "Everyone is always 100% in agreement with his or her own perspective." That is especially true of professionals, including physicians and professional administrators. In the classroom I have the luxury of pretending to "see" everyone's perspective. In life, as a professional I see things from "where I sit" and who I am.
In the book Leading Transformational Change: The physician-executive partnership Bujak and Atchison include the following parable.
A scorpion wants to cross a pond and asks a frog for its help. The scorpion asks to ride across the pond on the back of the frog. The frog initially does not trust the scorpion not to bite him. But the scorpion explains that it would not be in his own interest to sting the frog because doing so would kill the scorpion. The frog agrees. Half way across the pone the scorpion stings the frog. Before dying the frog asks, "Why did you sting me? Now we will both die." The scorpion replies, "I am a scorpion. I have to sting you -- it's my nature!"
Ouch! The authors go on the write that effective leaders accept that they cannot change people; that effective leaders find ways to build upon what people already are and by helping others become more of what they already are. That parable haunts me because it challenges what I want to be true. And yet I expect that there is some truth or wisdom in it; otherwise it would not remain in my mind.
Okay, my students. What do you make of this? If it is true that one cannot easily modify professional cultures, then what are the implications for leadership in perilous times? Can we only trust others to be their essential selves? Are notions of personal and organizational learning just empty exercises in academic idealism? Please take whatever you can of this, reflect upon it, and share your journey as a comment to this blog post.