Be the leader who surprises your team

Leading with Grace

By Ginny Mackin. Max Goodwin, the fictitious medical director on “New Amsterdam,” is terminally optimistic.

He jogs the halls of the hectic TV hospital looking for opportunity and purpose. “How can I help?” is his mantra. How can he help the burned-out emergency room docs who are working accident victims? How can he help the administrative staffers who have completed their 40 hours by mid-week? How can he help the staff psychologist heal the vets with PTSD?

Max and “New Amsterdam” are fictional but inspired by Eric Manheimer’s 2012 memoir “Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital.” The show is intense, warm and a study in leading with grace.

There’s lots of buzz about “servant leaders” these days.

Max takes it a step further. His introduction to his team throws them off balance: Doctors and staff at New Amsterdam are unsure how to respond to his offer of help. They’re even less sure about how they might listen to each other’s ideas and feel a shared commitment to improving their work lives.

Consider the leaders who have led you. Some have managed through what I call “pass/fail.”  Bring me the work, I will review and let you know if it is good or bad. Some delegate elegantly. Go get this all done and serve it up. The delegator will let you know what the delegator thinks. Others drop the big, urgent last-minute projects at 5:30 p.m. and expect a polished product by 9 a.m.

That’s the real world and we all have to live in it.

But remember: You get to choose what type of leader you want to be. You get to write your own leadership script.

The best leaders remove barriers in front of their teammates. Leaders’ roles should enable creativity, confidence and, sometimes, healthy conflict. Removing barriers can look like “helping.”  Helping does not diminish power or authority. It builds trust and respect. A dose of what I call horizontal thinking—what’s best for the company and team—can shake things up in a healthy way.

A great CEO I worked with said “everyone pulls their pants on the same way.” That was his version of a meritocracy and a team reminiscent of his Army days. It taught us that no one is more privileged than the other. We are part of a team that shares in mutual success. And sometimes it starts with “How can I help?” And, maybe, “how can WE help?”

I remember the late nights getting ready for an acquisition announcement the next day. My team and I were creating binders so that leaders would have everything they needed to communicate well following the announcement.

I could have headed home at midnight or I could stay and help with the binders. The binders got done earlier with an extra set of hands to help. The result? Loyal, trusting employees who got some sleep and a leader who has empathy for her team.

Have you ever lost respect for a manager or leader who asked how he/she could help? Conversely, has an empathetic leader helped you think differently about your own values?

“New Amsterdam” is well-written television. It’s also a fine study in leadership. Think about your leadership story and consider surprising your teammates, your family, your community with a more collective, inclusive style of problem solving.

The “we” can hit the reset button and build a healthier culture of trust and impact. Go ahead, write your own leadership story.


Identify an opportunity to remove a barrier or “help” someone in your office or in your life.

Ginny Stone Mackin is the principal of Grace & Stone Communications, LLC. Based in Cornelius, Ginny led communication functions at Ingersoll Rand, Duke Energy and Wachovia Corp. She also held management roles at Bank of America, CPC International and Bonwit Teller Stores.


2 Responses to “Be the leader who surprises your team”

  1. An excellent article. Ginny sounds like the type of leader for whom we would all like to work!

    Posted by Louise Stone | December 12, 2019, 11:55 am
  2. Excellent article! In my 35 years working in the Banking and Brokerage industry as a Retirement Plan Compliance Manager/VP, I’ve been fortunate to have worked for 2 people I would consider to be “best” leaders. Unfortunately, that is 2 out of about 15 total.
    Ginny, hopefully people who read your article will assess their leadership style and practices to see if they have room for improvement.

    Posted by Michele Cousin | December 13, 2019, 7:07 am

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