Not too long ago, I was at the hospital clinic for a follow-up on a surgical procedure. As I walked toward the exam room, I saw Adam and said hello. Adam responded in kind and kiddingly asked me when we were going to have the beer that I promised him. There was nothing extraordinary about this exchange – except that Adam was one of my doctors.

Four months earlier, I was waiting anxiously in an exam room to discuss my medical issue. A man came in, extended his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Adam and I’m going to be one your doctors.”  He was so pleasant and genuine, I immediately felt relaxed.

Fast forward a couple of months and I was in a bed being prepped for surgery.  The Operating Room nurse was asking me some questions when Adam walked in and started to gather some information from me. The flummoxed nurse told Adam she had not finished with her questions and asked him to wait outside. I was surprised when, rather than dressing down the nurse and exerting his status, Adam respectfully obeyed and waited until she had completed her assignment before he re-entered the room. When he left, I heard him apologize to the nurse for his behavior. Even in my relaxed state (the pre-general anesthesia drugs had started to kick in), I couldn’t quite believe what I had just seen and heard.

The next day, as I was waiting to be released from my overnight stay at the hospital, Adam stopped by to check on me. As we chatted, I told him that I had overheard the exchange with the nurse in pre-op and was impressed by his approach to the situation. I commended him for treating the nurse with respect. He paused for a moment and then told me how much he appreciated my comment.

Adam told me he had had a great mentor during his residency, someone who was revered by the staff and patients alike for how he built relationships and respectfully treated others. Adam had made it his professional mission to emulate the behaviors of his mentor. I told him briefly about my Best Boss studies, and how his mentor sounded like he was one of those. He agreed and appreciated the feedback I had provided. It encouraged him that he was making progress on his all-important goal. As he left, I offered to buy him a beer when my medical process was complete. He happily accepted my offer.

You never know when you are going find great leadership. Sometimes it shows up in the most unexpected times – like a hospital pre-operation ward. What I do know, however, is when you see great leadership, make sure to appreciate it. It doesn’t get recognized every day, so if you are able, give the leader some positive feedback. It’s rewarding to make someone feel good, and that reinforcement might be just what the person needs to keep putting in the effort of demonstrating great leadership. In the end, we will all be better off.

First round is on me, Adam.


Tell us about a time when you were caught off-guard by great leadership. Where were you? What happened? Did you get a chance to recognize them for their efforts?