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A Piece of My Mind
February 4, 1998

Leaders or Lemmings?

Author Affiliations

Edited by Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1998;279(5):341. doi:10.1001/jama.279.5.341

Whom are we willing to sacrifice?

In the past 6 years, I have worked at two academic institutions, both of which have had four deans each during the same period. Did we not choose well? Or did wise leaders opt out of undoable jobs?

I have known many chairs, chiefs, and deans. When I ask "How's the job?" they invariably reply, "Impossible," or "Awful," or "I can't stand it anymore." If I suggest that they take charge of their work and allow more time for family and exercise, even relaxation and contemplation, they laugh as if I am living in some other universe. They note that they often leave work feeling they are failing—failing their staff, bosses, and families. Burnout, turnover, and impairment—these are some of the outcomes we hold out to our most revered leaders.