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7 More Questions on Leadership with Fredrick A. McCurdy

Name: Fredrick A. McCurdy

Title: Professor of Pediatrics and Pediatric Nephrology

Organisation: Driscoll Children's Hospital

Medicine was not my first career. I worked for the U.S. Forest Service and then was drafted into the US Army during the Viet Nam conflict. Eventually completing training in 1981, I began a career as a Pediatrician, Pediatric Nephrologist, and Medical Educator. I was in academics for more than 40 years; I took a career detour to be a Managed Care Medical Director for 6 years; I returned to clinical practice sitting on small chairs and playing with children which is my passion. I still am an active teacher of medical students and Residents. I have no anticipated retirement date so I'll just keep on keeping on and retire when I simply cannot do the job any longer.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

We’ve gone through the interviews and asked the best of the best to come back and answer 7 MORE Questions on Leadership.

I hope Fredrick's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. As a leader, how do you build trust with employees, customers and other stakeholders?

Be honest. Tell the truth even if it appears to be a disadvantage or gives others a chance to be critical of you. I have been known to "wear my heart on my sleeve" often. Others in leadership positions have told me that this is something that others will always exploit and attempt to weaken you. I understand that. Conversely, I approach my leadership opportunities as I do my patient care. I am open, and honest, and I allow myself to be vulnerable. In so doing, I build trust. It has worked for me all these years. My patients know that they can ask me anything they want and I will always give them a straight answer. This has worked for me for almost 50 years, now!

2. What do 'VISION' and 'MISSION' mean to you? And what does it actually look like to use them in real-world business?

When I first read this, my initial reaction was, "This is something that gets put on the wall, taken down and dusted occasionally, and largely ignored." I personally believe that every company has one of each because that is what they must have or they are not credible. About 40 years ago, I was finishing my MBA and involved in many leadership development activities.

I was asked to tell a group of people my mission. I froze! I had never thought about it. I was going through life as a physician and a teacher and I never gave mission of vision any thought. I took a pause, spent significant time thinking about this, and came up with a personal mission statement: "To incent or inspire those around me to become the best at whatever they choose."

This remains my mission. My personal vision is to, in real-time, model the 12 points of the Boy Scouts of America Law- trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent in living out my personal mission and know that this task, living out my personal mission, will never be complete. I see mission and vision in the business world using the same set of personal lenses.

3. How can a leader empower the people they're leading?

Treat them with respect and give them meaningful work. Empowering someone is defined as, "giving (someone) the authority or power to do something." In my educator role, empowering a learner is giving them the tools to succeed, give them some advice on the direction they should take, let them know that this is "how high they have to jump" in order to accomplish the tasks, and then, for the most part, get out of their ways cheering them along as they progress. In my opinion, this is what a servant leader does all the time! I perceive no differences between what it takes to empower a learner and an employee. Give them the "tools" and the opportunity to excel.

4. Who are some of the coaches or mentors in your life who have had a positive influence on your leadership? Can you please tell a meaningful story about one of them?

Dr. DeLemos, one of many mentors, was walking with me as we left the ICU after a particularly difficult night on call. He was not one to be real 'touchy, feely'. He put his hand on my shoulder and told me two things - always trust your gut and nothing is impossible until you have tried and failed.

I had been awake all night tending to a real transplant patient that was in high-output congestive heart failure and I had done everything I could to reverse this life-threatening, and eventually life-ending process. I know what was wrong. I knew that I had to find the cause.

I was awake all night searching for the answer which never came. She died. I cried. The parents were devastated. Dr. DeLemos told me that I had done everything exactly correctly and he would not have done anything different. I learned a great deal about myself in that experience, grew as a physician, and never forgot that moment as we left the ICU.

5. Leadership is often more about what you DON'T do. How do you maintain focus in your role?

"Keep your eye on the ball." It applies to sport; it applies to landing an airplane on the pitching deck of an aircraft carrier; it applies to medicine; it applies to being a leader. Never forget your original purpose in everything you are attempting to accomplish. Lack or loss of focus will "bite you every time!"

6. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Everyone plans differently. How do you plan for the week, month and years ahead in your role?

I wish I knew the perfect answer to this question. When I was taking scuba diving instruction, the instructor would always say, "Plan your dive and dive your plan!" I did that without fail and never ended up with decompression sickness. I have a calendar. Most of the time, I check it and anticipate upcoming tasks that will need extra planning. The operative word in the previous sentence is "most".

I forget to do that and something comes up suddenly and I am caught without preparation; things go badly with loss of sleep, or poor presentation, or incomplete task, or any other poor outcome you can think of. To stave off those moments, I also have staff people around me who will keep me on task; nurses who anticipate and put in a verbal order sending me a message to please sign the note/order; staff assistants who give me gentle reminder notes/emails of something I need to pay attention too. I am responsible for my own outcomes so I surround myself with systems and people that keep me pointed forward into the future.

7. What advice would you give to a young leader who is struggling to delegate effectively?

Alter your belief that you alone can save the world. It does not work that way. As the saying goes, "It takes a village to raise a child." There are numerous quotes by people that I deeply respect on the topic of effective delegation and teamwork. Thus, listen to Mother Tersa, "None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful."

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