Building a Strong Foundation


Read the full story by Matthew Wiencke, published in the Winter 2014 issue of Dartmouth Medicine.

Smack! The puck whips across the ice straight at you. Your heart is pounding. You lean forward, ready to stop it from going in the net. Suddenly the puck careens off another stick. Now another shot is coming at you from the far left. You lunge in that direction, trying to smother the puck as it flies in.

Chip Souba, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine, and Cathy Pipas, a professor of community and family medicine, are members of the Leadership Working Group, which guides Geisel’s implementation of leadership training. (Photo by Jon Gilbert Fox)

Playing goalie, says James Borchert ’83, who played hockey at Dartmouth as an undergraduate and now plays in a local league, boils down to two things: being fully in the moment and being flexible. As goalie, “I’m keenly aware of my range of motion, my flexibility, my ability to be there and stop the puck from going in,” he says. “Leadership is similar.” When facing a challenge, good leaders need to be focused, in the moment, aware—and flexible enough to move in new directions they may not have considered or thought possible.

Borchert did not always think of leadership in this way. For years, when he was in industry, he thought leading meant “strategy, performance metrics and targets, and optimizing processes,” he says. Then, in the summer of 2012, he took a course at the Geisel School of Medicine: “The Science and Practice of Leading Yourself,” and everything has changed for him. His family life is improved. He gets on better with his five kids. He approaches his day-to-day work differently as sourcing manager in procurement at Dartmouth. He now has a new view of leadership that “has really changed my life in a positive way,” he says. “I am more powerful to make things happen.”

The course is one piece of a broad leadership initiative that Dean Chip Souba is spearheading. It involves faculty, students, and staff across Geisel, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and Dartmouth College. Next summer, Souba will again be teaching the leadership course to professionals in health care, academia, and business from Dartmouth and around the U.S. Leadership training will also be an important component of the new medical curriculum, which will launch in the fall of 2015. Geisel students already are taking a leadership elective that introduces them to exercising leadership in their own training, and they have created the Leadership Development Council, a group of students interested in leadership who meet monthly to listen to guest speakers (such as Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon) and discuss leadership concepts and how they can lead in their own lives.

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