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BJS Bookshelf: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action


Authors: Recommendation and Article by Dr Ameera AlHasan, Specialist General and Colorectal Surgeon, Jaber Al-Ahmad Hospital, Kuwait, @A160186

This book is about business and leadership. It examines why certain enterprises and their leaders have enjoyed the successes they do. The author, Simon Sinek,  proposes a model called “The Golden Circle” represented diagrammatically as three concentric circles where “why” lies at the centre followed by “how” and  “what”. His argument is that for a business to prosper, it has to primarily focus on why it does what it has chosen to do, and to create a consistent vision through which it can inspire customers and create brand loyalty. Sinek uses Apple Inc. and its creator Steve Jobs as the epitome of a company and its leader with a clear and consistent “why”. He believes this is the secret behind Apple’s continued success and its ability to create a worldwide market of fanatics. He also cites other well known brands and companies as examples. Some have managed to maintain their “why” and hence continue to flourish whilst others have floundered when a change in leadership resulted in a loss of their  “why”.  Sinek also discusses how inspiration is a much more effective and durable method of spurring people into action than manipulation is.

This book was actually recommended to me by a fellow surgeon. Although I was initially skeptical and wondered why surgeons would want to read a book about business, management and CEOs, I am glad I picked it up. Surgeons must read this book particularly if they lead teams at the hospital. The principles apply to surgical teams as much as they do to administrative ones. Surgical teams with a clear vision and a definite sense of purpose are more efficient and will inspire both their members and their patients to cooperate and achieve treatment goals. 

Deciding when to operate, when not to operate and how to lead a patient on their healing journey all require a surgeon to recognize their “why”.  As surgeons, we must make our objectives clear to ourselves, our patients and our teams if we are to inspire positive action. Coercing and manipulating our colleagues and patients to adopt our plans and values will not work in the long run, but inspiring them will. Modern surgeons are more than mere craftsmen, and are required to command a vast array of nontechnical skills including an understanding of team dynamics, psychology and effective leadership, all of which are discussed in this book.

I believe this book will also help many younger and mid-career surgeons struggling to find meaning in their chaotic night shifts, overwhelming schedules, and difficult rotations and exams. It all becomes much more bearable once they stop to remember why they had chosen a career in surgery in the first place, and why they set out to treat and operate on patients.

Everything we do as surgeons must Start with Why. 

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