Knee Surgery Leadership Lessons


By Greg Werstler

The weeks following a major surgery may seem like a strange time to learn about leadership.

And that’s the first lesson: slow down! We’re so busy “leading”, moving on to the next project, solving the next problem that we never take the time to think about HOW we’re leading. If you don’t take time to reflect and gain perspective, you are destined to continue the same cycle; making the same mistakes, operating from the same set of assumptions.

Nothing provides you with more time and less to do than knee surgery. So here are some thoughts I had about leadership while lying around, attempting to bend my knee.

  • Asking for help doesn’t make you less of a leader. In fact, it signals a level of trust in your team members. Leaders must inspire their team or company or tribe to do things, accomplish tasks. They cannot do it by themselves. There are certainly leaders who will try, you’ve probably worked under a few of those leaders. How long did that last? Also, if the help you need is someone to drive you around, and that someone is your wife, DO NOT comment on the quality of their driving.
  • Communicate a clear vision AND the roles your team members fill. My lovely family has done a fantastic job of keeping me on the schedule of meds, icing, and elevation. But I realized I needed to be clearer about how I saw this all working. Otherwise it was “let me get that for you” or “can I bring that to you” when what I really wanted was to do some things myself.  I was letting my team and the situation dictate the vision.
  • Show extreme appreciation. Again, ESPECIALLY important when your wife is your caregiver. But so important for a leader too. Your team is running all over making the shared vision for the company happen. Say thank you. Ask them how their day is going and what they need to get done so that it’s not all about you. Pay attention, reward early and often, not just at the end of the quarter or end of the project.
  • All of these lessons lead back to: Understand your environment. Easy to see the importance of the environment when you need crutches to get around. Easy to forget in business when your environment is always changing. Take time to gain perspective, make sure the vision fits the environment, acknowledge those who are on your team, and adjust when necessary

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about while sitting in a machine bending my knee from 0° to 120° and back again. That and realizing I’m not a person that can watch television for extended periods of time. But that’s another article…

Please, share any of your leadership lessons in the comments.