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Sharing good intel

Regular readers of ODs on Facebook are familiar with the #TFT hashtag, which stands for “tales from the trenches” of clinical eye care. Posts with this tag include “compelling clinical photos” worth sharing with other doctors so that all may benefit by seeing, for instance, how a particular pathology presents itself. In military parlance, we call this “good intel” (short for intelligence), and sharing good intel is what smart warriors do, passing the word from one trench to another.

But this series is not about clinical cases or differential diagnoses. Rather, it’s about being a leader to those who work alongside you out there in the trenches. I’m talking about your office manager, who oversees day-to-day operations; your optician, who you trust to fit the best frame and lens for each patient; your front desk team that serves as the public face of your practice; and don’t forget those behind the scenes in marketing, or billing and coding, or any other specialists you employ. These are the people you go to war with every day, sharing in the victories and, yes, the occasional losses, too. 

Leadership is a skill

Yet nothing you learned in optometry school really prepared you for your leadership role on this team. No boards exam assessed your ability to settle a workplace dispute. Maybe a seminar here or there discussed “practice management,” but it covered nothing in-depth about what it means to really lead people. As a result, most ODs are thrown to the fire on Day 1, left to figure out the leadership piece as on-the-job training.  And if you think that being a good leader comes intuitively to just anyone, well, then you’ve somehow never worked for a bad boss—lucky you! 

In reality, leadership is a skill, one that benefits from study and practice. And that development is the very goal of this series, “JJ DID TIE BUCKLE: Military Leadership Traits in an Eye Care Setting.”  We will explore how time-honored values in a warrior culture can be applied to your success as a leader of eye care professionals. Our framework for discussion uses the fourteen leadership traits of the U. S. Marine Corps, commonly referred to by the memory aid “JJ DID TIE BUCKLE.” These stand for Justice, Judgment, Decisiveness, Initiative, Dependability, Tact, Integrity, Enthusiasm, Bearing, Unselfishness, Courage, Knowledge, Loyalty, and Endurance. (I should note here that I am not a Marine, but I first encountered this list of virtues years ago as a midshipman being trained by Marines at the U. S. Naval Academy. As a first-year student—a “Plebe”—I was forced to memorize them and spout them out if called upon to do so. So it’s no surprise that they’ve stuck with me through the years.)

The beauty of this set of leadership traits rests in both its timelessness and its universality. 

Each of these principles is important whether you are a new grad employee in a commercial setting, a mid-career OD in a hospital clinic, or the sole owner of your practice planning to retire in a few years. Just about any challenge, you may face as a leader will test your skill in one or several of these traits. Got an employee swiping frames behind your back? That’s a decisiveness issue (among others): how quickly do you resolve that problem? Have an unruly patient out front? They’ll likely test your bearing, your ability to stay cool and calm. Or, better yet, try this activity: scan the daily posts of ODs on Facebook and find at least one that pertains to a practice management issue. Then ask yourself, “Which JJ DID TIE BUCKLE trait(s) is/are being tested in this case? And, more importantly, how would I handle this situation myself?” This introspection is the critical step for your personal growth as a leader.

We will work through the series in the order of traits as listed above, with Justice up first in the next installment. As a preview, ask yourself, “What do I do every day that conveys my sense of fairness to those around me? Or, conversely: what am I doing that others might think is unfair?”

Jonathan Jacesko
Lieutenant Jonathan Jacesko is the Optometrist at Naval Submarine Base New London in Connecticut. After graduating from the U. S. Naval Academy in 2003, he served for 10 years on active duty as a Naval Flight Officer. He was a Mission Commander/Tactical Coordinator in P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft before enrolling in optometry school in 2013. His military decorations include the Strike/Flight Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, among other individual and unit awards. By writing this series he does not make any inherent claim to be a great or even a good leader himself, but he does try to get better every day.