November 2013 / Volume 1, No. 1

Leadership in the bleeding disorders community

Steve Jobs, Indira Gandhi, an inspirational member of your hemophilia organization… Most people can name a great leader, but what qualities do they share and how can you go about becoming one?

Leadership is a process of social interaction and influence, which motivates and maximizes the efforts of others towards a common goal.

What makes a good leader?

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Although great leaders share some key characteristics, it is not personality alone that determines whether a leader is successful or not. Followers count too! Without people willing to support and carry out your ideas, you are an individual trying to make a difference, as opposed to the leader of an organization whose members are working towards a shared objective.

You need to know your team well in order to be an effective leader. Imagine a team member agrees to work on a project but keeps turning up late to work. You are worried about her ability to complete the task.  Rather than confronting her aggressively a week before the deadline, it would be more productive to ask if something is affecting her work (many things can impact ability to work or concentrate on a project - a new treatment schedule, school or work commitments, personal situation etc.), and offer help if needed.

In order to attract followers, you need to inspire confidence, be a motivator, and be attentive to your team’s needs.

Know yourself
Truly knowing your own strengths and limitations enables you to leverage the former and work on overcoming the latter. Furthermore, it can lead to a deeper understanding of yourself. Just as you need to know what drives team members, you must have an honest understanding of your own knowledge, abilities, and desires, especially as this can bolster your sense of direction and self-confidence.

Communication and empathy
Communication is a two-way street, and a lot of it is non-verbal. You are an example to others through your words and your actions. This not only includes how you treat others but how you treat yourself – remember to try and be the kind of person you would look up to.

Good leaders practice the art of attentive listening and are empathetic. This isn’t just about looking at someone when they speak to you. An attentive listener picks up on and acknowledges the emotional cues that the individual (or group) give while speaking.

Coming up next…
Do you want to make a change in the lives of people with bleeding disorders? Maybe you want to create or join a network for young people with bleeding disorders, or perhaps you have a great idea for a fundraising event. A youth group is a great way to meet others who have similar goals and face similar challenges. Find out more about starting a youth group, or what to expect when you join one, in our next Young Voices article.

Imagine a friend is having problems with his family; he wants to join a sports team but his parents are worried about the possibility of increased bleeds. Listen to what he has to say – that means no texting while talking! Identify the emotions he expresses, and, once he has stopped speaking, use your own words to describe how he feels about the situation. For example: “It sounds like you feel frustrated and disempowered that your parents don’t support your desire to play more team sports.” Sometimes this is all people want – try not to offer solutions unless the person asks for advice.

Every situation calls for a different kind of leadership; there is no one size fits all methodology. A good leader is able to determine the type of action a specific situation requires.

For example, a person who has just found out that he has a bleeding disorder and is still coming to terms with the diagnosis will need to be approached and engaged in a different way than a person who has lived with the diagnosis for longer.

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Leadership in the bleeding disorders community

The bleeding disorders community has a unique identity but like any other group, it needs cohesion, as well as a unified direction that reflects the values of its members. Understanding followers’ needs and motivations is therefore very important for the community’s leaders.

Good leaders encourage team members to contribute their ideas and be involved in all aspects of an organization or project. This demonstrates confidence in their abilities, interest in their opinions, and fosters deeper commitment, more open communication, and improved productivity.

In addition to guiding the community, as a leader you are a role model and motivator for people living with bleeding disorders. Although people with a medical condition face certain challenges, you can demonstrate and support the happy, successful life that people with bleeding disorders can have and should be striving for.

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