Inspiration is the process of uplifting others. The common belief behind the act of inspiring someone is the words you use. As I was to see, it only works if you empower others through your words too.
The first day is always the worst. If you could ask Dr Miranda Bailey she would agree whole-heartedly. Her glum expression reflecting the hollowness she now feels. Gone is the high of starting her first day as chief of surgery at Grey Sloane Memorial Hospital.
Stood on the open passageway where the two sides of the atrium become one, Bailey has a choice of views. To the south, the red and white stripes hang against the giant flagpole, fluttering gently in the breeze as the Seattle skyline sits poised in the background. In the other direction is the centre of the atrium, the reception area where patients, visitors, doctors, and nurses go about their day.
Instead of absorbing the atmosphere, Bailey sulks, crest-fallen at what has become a horrible day. Despite her fierce reputation, ‘The Nazi’ is all a front. Introverted, but overtly confident, her vision hasn’t materialized. Instead, she has had to isolate one doctor, deal with squabbling surgeons and lovers, and feel scorn from an overworked Meredith.
In Bailey’s mind, Meredith is her Aide-de-Camp. The one who turns strategy into action, or in the case of a hospital, the unwell to the healed. But with no title, Meredith tackles the workload alone, and struggles to keep pace with the events of the day. Exasperated, her tone with the new chief is abrupt. Confused, Bailey’s questioning opens a pandora’s box of frustration from Meredith.
Battered, humbled, and daunted by the sheer size of the challenge she faces, the views across the atrium offer Bailey a moment’s peace. Not only has she failed in setting out her vision, but she has also lost her colleagues.
The wallowing of self-pity escapes Bailey, as the moment of failure becomes framed in words. Her mentor, and earlier chief, Dr Webber is the sponge who soaks up Bailey’s sorrow. “I’ve failed. They hate me.”
“If you want someone to run a four-minute mile, you don’t chase them. You don’t give them something to run from. You give them something to run to.”
He pauses, his fingers brushing the grey hairs which decorate his chin. His sageness now ready to try and guide his former student back to the right path. “If you want someone to run a four-minute mile, you don’t chase them. You don’t give them something to run from. You give them something to run to.”
His perceptiveness is a nudge to Bailey about the true skill of leadership.
It isn’t micro-managing; chasing and harassing others to get things done. It isn’t being fierce, or sharp in her tone. Leading is inspirational; inspiring her team to achieve goals and stretch them.
As Webber’s quote sinks in, Bailey goes in search of Meredith. An explanation for the overworked surgeon comes forth. “I wanted you to be me. Just as I was the engine to Webber, so I want you to be my engine.” What follows next is the switch Webber spoke about. “I want you to be my chief of general surgery”.
Now Bailey’s words to Meredith begin to turn the tide, the promotion a recognition Meredith can and will work with. Instead of feeling put upon, Meredith takes forth her title to lead and guide her team of general surgeons. Empowered rather than harassed, the change is emphatic.
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Inspiration by empowerment
As the pandemic has done for many of us, box sets are now a pathway to relieve the monotony of isolation. Grey’s Anatomy, and it’s sixteen series have certainly broken up the festival of peace we’ve all experienced this year. Many of the episodes force a lesson upon us. Such is the way with exceptional stories, and this episode certainly prompted me to see how effective empowerment is.
When I first think of inspiration, I think of General Maximus as he rides his horse back and forth along the frontline of soldiers in the opening scene to Gladiator. His steel sword reflecting the orange light of the fires that burn behind the lines. As he rides, so he issues a rallying cry to his troops. Inspired; so much so, the soldiers can see beyond the horror of war, and start marching towards the enemy.
Inspiration is so much more than leading from the front. It is more than battle cries, more than leading by example, although both are relevant. Inspiration is empowering others, allowing them to take responsibility. It lights up the pathway forward, which is what this excellent example highlights.
Yes, Bailey had delegated her work to Meredith, but she hadn’t empowered her to do it. Without the empowerment, Bailey faces a doctor bitter at the excessive workload, and worse, resentful of her new boss.
The inspiration comes from the empowerment. Now, Meredith is alive to the responsibility. No longer bristling, the promotion lifts the new chief of general surgery to do what Bailey needs. Inspiration should be empowering.