Healthcare belongs to all of us. Let’s recreate it together with more ease, joy, and success!

Clinical Leaders: Put Your Oxygen Masks On First!

Crazy Times

Guess what? We’re living in a VUCA world:

  • Volatile
  • Uncertain
  • Complex
  • Ambiguous

This acronym was coined by the military in 1987 to describe our world to come that’s fast-paced, increasingly unstable, and rapidly changing (1). Well, we’ve arrived, and it’s unlike like anything we’ve experienced before.

Not Your Mother’s Healthcare

Nowadays, VUCA is used by leaders to describe a rapidly changing business environment that has become the new normal. The changes we’re seeing and the challenges we’re overcoming – especially with technology – are not only radical, they’re transforming every single aspect of our lives. This is especially true in our work lives as healthcare professionals. Consider how far advances in digital health applications have come in terms of expanding care delivery models as well as empowering patients to manage their own health. Consider even how buzzwords such as big data, AI, wearables, and telehealth were virtually unheard of decades ago.

These disruptive changes have resulted in an explosion of information that we’re just not equipped for; our brains have not yet evolved to handle this kind of input. The fallout in our healthcare organizations is workers at all levels who are overwhelmed and energy-depleted from the daily demands generated from all of the technologies we’re using.

Rising Above the Daily Commotion of Clinical Leadership

I recently put on a webinar for clinical leaders called Rising Above the Daily Commotion with Energy, Focus and Staying Power: Become a Source of Light for Yourself, Your Teams, and Your Organization. In it, we discussed how important it is for healthcare leaders to put their own oxygen masks on first so they can then attend to members of their teams.

One of the ways leaders can do this is to start their days with practices that ignite their energy sources, remind them of the impact they want to make, and inspire them to carry it forth.

For me, this is a daily ritual of inspirations, meditations, and connecting with nature. I do this every day without fail, because if I don’t I could get taken down by the deluge of inputs that come my way and forget about what it is I came here to do.

Ignite Your Energy Sources

Stumped on how to start? There are no hard and fast rules for this. The answer will ultimately depend on a routine that works for you.

You can take a page from LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, who swears by an app called Headspace that he uses to practice his daily meditation (2), or from Ford Motor Company executive chairman, Bill Ford, who – during the time Ford nearly declared bankruptcy – took time each morning to “set an intention” to deal with whatever arose that day with a sense of compassion and kindness (3).

Make it part of your mission as a leader to replenish your energy at regular intervals. When you build in time for self-care, you become more productive and place yourself in a better position to practice conscious leadership.

If adding this to your already busy life sounds hard or overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. The key is to make it doable – a little goes a very long way, even just 5-10 minutes each day. And make it pleasurable – my morning ritual is one of the highlights of my day.

Thriving Instead of Merely Surviving

Leaders, don’t founder in this VUCA sea of change. Putting your own oxygen mask on first will help you and your team members thrive instead of merely survive. Flipping the famous VUCA acronym from volatility to vision, from uncertainty to understanding, from complexity to clarity, and from ambiguity to agility.


  1. UNC Executive Department. (2017, March 10). The Origins of VUCA. Retrieved from http://execdev.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/blog/the-origins-of-vuca
  2. DeMers, Jayson. (2018, April 3). 5 successful business leaders that have used meditation to improve productivity, creativity, and business acumen. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/5-successful-leaders-that-have-used-meditation-to-be-more-productive-2018-4
  3. Schwartz, Tony. (2013, February 27). How to Be Mindful in an ‘Unmanageable’ World. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2013/02/how-to-be-mindful-in-an-unmana

Post navigation
Scroll to Top