August 2001 Bulletin

AAOS Board acts to ensure future source of volunteers experienced leaders

The AAOS has been successful in education, research, health policy and other endeavors because of the efforts of its volunteer members. They share their time, skills and devotion to the profession.

But we cannot be complacent that this vital resource will be there to serve us as well in the future if we don’t address some issues today.

One issue is the supply of volunteer members. Reimbursements have declined, operating expenses have increased and our members are under increasing pressure to focus more of their time on their practices and less on outside activities.

One-quarter of orthopaedic surgeons are contemplating retiring from or ending their orthopaedic practice in the next five years. That seems high and may be a reflection of burdens of regulations, legislation and managed care. Even if some of these members defer their decision to leave the profession, almost 10 percent of our members are age 60 to 64 and 9.4 percent are 65 and older.

Will volunteer members among those who leave the profession be replaced by younger volunteers? AAOS marketing research indicates we should not be too confident this would happen. Only 52 percent of members under age 40 and 54 percent age 40 to 49, responding to a survey, said "orthopaedic surgeons should volunteer their time for Academy activities for the greater good of orthopaedics." However, 63 percent of members age 50 to 59 and 74 percent age 60 and older believed orthopaedists should volunteer their time for Academy activities.

The supply of volunteer members is one issue; the need for volunteers is another. We are in an environment where new challenges and new opportunities pop-up every day. Our Councils and committees need experienced, skillful leaders to cope with these situations. These leaders need to be able to form project teams of expert-members to examine the challenges and opportunities and make recommendations quickly.

The Board of Directors has set in motion two initiatives to ensure that a pool of dedicated volunteer members and experienced leaders will be available in the future.

At the May meeting of the Board, members accepted a project team recommendation for developing the Knowledge, Experience and Interest (KEI) database of members. The database will include members with expertise that would match the needs of a committee or project team. Members would be selected for a committee or project team based on their skill sets, rather than constituency or friendship.

The KEI project team, chaired by Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD, recommended that all future committee openings be posted on the AAOS web site with a detailed set of expectations; time commitments; experience in similar organizations; references; and competencies, skills and experience needed for the position.

Chairs could only choose candidates responding to the posting. Those not accepted would be encouraged to apply for similar openings and their names would be forwarded to COMMS, the Board of Councilors and the state societies for possible assignments. A project team led by Dr. Zuckerman was named to develop an operational plan for implementing the KEI database.

To address the issue of the future leadership of the AAOS, the Board held an in-depth strategic discussion, led by Vernon Tolo, MD, first vice president.

There was consensus that the AAOS should identify younger members who could be future leaders. Board members believe that providing leadership training and mentoring to younger members would stimulate their interest in the organization.

The Board discussed developing a fellowship-type program for leadership development and a formal mentoring program.

A budget will be submitted to the Board in September for a program to be implemented at the 2002 Annual Meeting in Dallas.

Stephen England, MD, was named chair of a project team charged with investigating what national medical and other organizations are doing in leadership development. The project team will report to the Board of September.

The development of leadership is vital to our future. In the corporate world, leadership can make the difference between the good and the great corporations and the same is true for not-for-profits such as the AAOS.

James C. Collins, a management researcher, went looking for what made a great company, and found what he calls Level 5 leadership. In an article in January Harvard Business Review, "Level 5 Leadership, The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve," Collins says the original research question was "can a good company become a great one, and, if so, how?" The researchers wanted to downplay the role of the leader, but they found the Level 5 executive was a key element at the great companies.

The Level 5 executive, "builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility, plus professional will," Collins writes.

The executive is at the top of a hierarchy of the Level 4 Effective Leader, Level 3 Competent Managers, Level 2 Contributing Members and Level 1 Highly Capable Individuals. The Level 5 executive requires the capabilities of all the lower levels, plus the special characteristics of Level 5.

An interesting observation about Level 5 executives is their attention to people. Collins writes: "They got the right people on the bus, moved the wrong people off, ushered the right people to the right seats–and then they figured out where to drive it."

The AAOS also needs the right people in the right seats on committees and project teams and a steady stream of future leaders. And that’s where we’re headed.

Richard H. Gelberman, MD

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