Leadership DNA

A recent visit to a large teaching hospital in South India gave me a ‘Eureka” moment.

The hospital was bursting at the seams. Over 2500 inpatient facilities, and traffic of nearly 7000 outpatient footfalls a day! All in one facility. Although, not the largest in India, and one third the size of the world’s largest in China, these are still big numbers.

Registration, payments, tests, results, reports…all managed in a nightmare of crowds, squeezing and weaving past patients, attendants, security guards, nurses, aides, interns and doctors.

Yet at the end of the day we leave feeling it was all worthwhile.

How do they manage that? How many organizations and leaders can say that their customers feel this way, post a stressful interaction?

While designing leadership programs & coaching leaders, I am always on the look-out for insight… gathering information, styles, tips, etc.

So here’s my theory, fine-tuned post my experience at this mammoth institution, on what is essential for long term, sustained leadership.  I do believe that Organizations or individuals who have these foundational characteristics in their DNA will sustain leadership at optimum levels for far longer than the quick buck business houses.

  • Collaboration- Internally
  • A learning & teaching culture
  • Humility

I then discovered the medical institution’s website has this sentence as part of their vision “…Excellence in Education, Service and Research”And it all fell into place.

Internal Collaboration:

The most significant departure from my experience at other institutions was the internal collaboration between “experts”. Each expert was interested in the other specialists’ observations and opinions. Each Doctor had immediate access to each other’s remarks & diagnosis. They clarified with each patient what the other specialists said and verified the patient’s understanding of the opinion.

Every nuance and symptom was noted. Every opinion was as important as the next. Using technology, they collaborated. I have seen other hospitals have access to the same technology of online records and pay scant attention to the opinions of their colleagues.

The level of internal collaboration was high. They listened to each other, learnt from each other leaving no avenue unexplored.

As a client this was seamless service. One left feeling that they took every angle of your problem into account before arriving at a solution. That they had a holistic view and gave an intelligent response. A response that took into account the esteemed opinion of several experts. Experts who worked in unison, not in competition.

In this day of Matrix reporting, Independent Business Units, KRAs, Domain Experts, SMEs and functioning in silos how many Organizations can really say that their top brass actually function like this?  With the true spirit of collaboration?

A Learning & Teaching Culture:

Not only were they learning from each other, they were constantly imparting knowledge. International students, exchange fellows, eager interns, even patients.

Questions were answered with care, attention to detail and patience. Questions were asked with care. Each patient was an opportunity for learning & research.

I have heard several organizations’ leaders reassure clients:  “Don’t worry my team knows what they are doing”. Leaving a client still feeling worried, yet arming him with enough ammunition to bury you if anything goes wrong.

Org clients who want to get into details are often labelled. Yet here the doctors took pains to explain- regardless of education, billing potential, language or knowledge level!

Even if we are open to learning- we are very wary of teaching. The cut throat world of Organizational politics results in many business leaders fearful of empowering their second line. Little realizing that you cannot move up the ladder if there is no one capable of taking your place


If, as a leader, it is in your DNA to assume that the Universe can still help you discover and learn new and wonderful things each day, every moment…then you will treat every interaction as an opportunity. Every person, experience and action is an opportunity for growth and discovery. So with the confidence of an expert we still have the humility to recognize that a eureka moment can be inspired by the unexpected.  I am not talking about being humble…I am talking about an attitude of enthusiasm and openness for development.

My conclusion: An Organization with DNA that has a penchant for learning & imparting knowledge, practiced with internal collaboration & humility has the foundation to sit on the throne of success for far longer than the competition. In a far more relevant manner

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