Leadership

The Vital Connection Between Camaraderie and Leadership

Article · June 20, 2016

Camaraderie is the spirit of trust and friendship. More than a nice-to-have among co-workers, camaraderie is actually a crucial indicator of successful leadership. Leadership is a social process to engage teams of colleagues to meet challenges and then overcome them. In my career-long study of leadership, I’ve found that the best organizations engage associates who serve on diverse multidisciplinary teams through camaraderie.

Camaraderie is not rocket science. It can be nurtured through four leader behaviors:

  1. Leaders should regularly express appreciation to associates for their work and team efforts. The appreciation must be authentic and warranted.
  2. Leaders must as a matter of habit solicit ideas from colleagues, and in partnership use the collective ideas and energy of the team. Participative management with collaborative action planning is fundamental for successful servant leadership. Insightful leaders promote this with commensality — such as over a shared meal.
  3. Transparent communication is central to growing camaraderie. Transparency and participative management engender teamwork and trust.
  4. Leaders have a responsibility for succession planning. To bring the most joy to colleagues that one has the privilege of leading, leaders must take a genuine interest in the careers of their direct reports. Mentorship begets camaraderie.

Leaders who live these four simple behaviors are leveraging the outcomes of co-workers who have a sense of mission with meaning and purpose. The companionate love of camaraderie yields meaning from helping others.

Whatever one calls its — teamwork, relational coordination, collaboration — camaraderie is a basic building block of social capital in organizations. Camaraderie is what builds trust and interconnectedness of staff. Social capital accounts for the major value of organizations today and is a force-multiplying differentiator. Social capital aids in the creation of an organization that readily learns from successes and failures.

In health care, camaraderie begets superior organizational effectiveness, productivity, and even safety. Most preventable harm arises from defects in communication and handoff.

I have always been fascinated with the sciences of psychology and sociology. After three decades of leadership, I remain fascinated and now better understand how their application is critical in meeting the mission of an organization. In my role as Mayo Clinic’s Medical Director for Leadership and Organization Development, I try to model those four behaviors with the colleagues I have the privilege of serving.

Although many thinkers, leaders, and organizations expend a great deal of energy on building camaraderie, or alternately wondering why they don’t have it, ultimately it isn’t difficult. Just care about one another . . . engender trust . . . commit to excellence as a team.

As Lead Advisor for the Leadership theme on NEJM Catalyst, I am pleased to kick off an ongoing series of articles, case studies, interviews, and other contributions from health care executives, physicians, and others who seek to improve leadership within their organizations. Please look here often for new ideas, and offer your own.

 

New call for submissions ­to NEJM Catalyst

Now inviting longform articles

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