Ashten Duncan: Dr. Tess taught me medicine and leaership |

When we live in constant fear of the unknown with no clear external guidance, our brains divert energy from their outer cortices, which enable us to reason, learn and think critically, in favor of deeper brain structures, such as our amygdala and basal ganglia, which prepare us to respond to danger. When we are constantly in this state of hyperarousal, those who speak the language of fear are the easiest to hear, whereas technical information and facts are missed or misconstrued. Dr. Tess understood this well and used this knowledge to guide our team to successful health care outcomes.

In their book “Leadership 2.0,” Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves outline the fundamental characteristics of functional leaders, describing core and adaptive leadership skills. Core leadership skills are those foundational competencies that allow a leader to function on a basic level: strategy, action and results. We all recognize some of these as the abilities to establish a vision, create concrete plans, make difficult decisions and allocate resources in order to achieve results. The adaptive leadership skillset involves taking this foundation and turning it into something more generative: It consists of emotional intelligence, organizational justice, character and development. In short, these are what make good leaders great.

These adaptive leadership skills are what made Dr. Tess a great leader. In every interaction she had and every decision she made, Dr. Tess always prioritized the wellbeing of her patients and team over her own individual interests. She recognized how her emotions and the emotions of those around her could majorly affect people’s understanding of a precarious situation and how misunderstanding could jeopardize a patient’s health. She showed others how they should treat people by modeling the behaviors of a highly effective leader.

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