A true leader guides and inspires others
“A true leader is someone who guides and inspires others; someone who listens, hears different perspectives, and enables diverse teams to work together successfully and achieve desired ends. And, as physicians, we do that every day in our medical practices and in our communities.”
Cindy Forbes, MD, CCFP, FCFP
Canadian Medical Association President 2015 - 2016
Before taking on the presidency of Doctors Nova Scotia in 1996, I was like a lot of physicians in that I didn’t really think of myself as a leader. Instead, I saw myself as someone who advocated for her patients and her profession. Maybe it’s because being a “leader” somehow conveyed such a huge responsibility, and I automatically assumed that a leader is the person who’s “running the show.” Rather than running the show, though, I think a true leader is someone who guides and inspires others; someone who listens, hears different perspectives, and enables a diverse team to work together successfully and achieve desired ends. And, as physicians, we do that every day in our medical practices and in our communities. All physicians are leaders even if not in formal leadership positions, which is likely why there’s growing recognition that leadership training is crucial for each one of us.
Developing leadership skills
Whatever our perception of leadership, few of us are born with all the innate skills we need to do the job successfully. Twenty years ago, I certainly didn’t feel I had all the skills I needed so I made a conscious decision to develop my leadership abilities. I learned a lot by sitting on committees and watching other physician leaders. I read books and gained leadership skills by participating. But, I still didn’t feel completely equipped.
The first Physician Leadership Institute (PLI) course I attended was ”Conflict Management and Negotiation” followed by “Leading Change.” Both of these are CORE PLI courses, which means they’ve been identified as essential training for physicians interested in or engaged in a position of leadership.
My next PLI course was “Self Awareness,” which I highly recommend to all practising physicians and students alike. The course provides valuable understanding of yourself and insight into how you relate to other people. The opportunities to apply what you learn in the course to current experiences are invaluable. I found what I learned about myself to be incredibly useful in my personal life as well as in my professional life, and I wish I had taken it 20 years ago. In fact, I’d recommend taking this course twice: once early in your career and a second time later on.
Learning new skills and how to better use the tools we already have
We come into medicine with a certain set of skills that have been honed to enable us to be successful in the medical profession. However, we don’t necessarily have all the other abilities we need, such as being able to effectively lead multi-disciplinary teams, get your message across in a way that captures the attention of the people you want to hear it, and engage people in meaningful discussions. These skills can be learned and we can also discover how to better leverage the tools we already have.
In my current role as President of the CMA, I have the great honor and privilege of serving the profession in a national leadership role. All of my past experience, knowledge and training has helped prepare me for this important role, and I continue to learn more about leadership every day. As in clinical medicine, leadership also lends itself to the process of lifelong learning. I will look forward to taking more PLI courses in the future.
About Cindy Forbes, MD, CCFP, FCFP
Originally from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Dr. Cindy Forbes has been a practicing family physician for more than 28 years. Initially interested in teaching, she completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Education at Dalhousie University in 1980 and was a recipient of the Dalhousie University Medal for Academic Achievement. Actively involved with the CMA for many years, Dr. Forbes chaired CMA’s Committee on Health Care and Promotion and was a member of CMA’s Political Action Committee before being elected President of Doctors Nova Scotia. Dr. Forbes assumed the Presidency of the CMA in August 2015.
For more information on the CMA’s PLI courses and to register today, please visit