When we talk about the research ecology, I am reminded of the importance of fig trees. I spent several years of my adolescence living in a temperate rainforest. There was a mighty fig tree there that was an important landmark, it was awe inspiring. For some young children, it was a place of fairies, for many of us it was a place for reflection and welcome peace. I remember when it fell, and what a hole it left in the canopy: there was such a sense of loss when I returned to the site.
I think many of our educational leaders and mentors are like that. They provide us with the environment to grow and flourish, whether we are future canopy trees, or other species. Even the important groundcover: those of us who keep the “show on the road” seeing patients, teaching younger health professionals and applying research. Unfortunately, the huge and mighty fig does also attract strangling vines, but that’s another leadership story!!
Anne Davis, our manager of quality at GPET, sent me a great article from the McKinsey Quarterly entitled Centered leadership: How talented women thrive. The authors write
Women start careers in business and other professions with the same level of intelligence, education, and commitment as men. Yet comparatively few reach the top echelons. This gap matters not only because the familiar glass ceiling is unfair, but also because the world has an increasingly urgent need for more leaders.
This post is not so much about gender equity, but it does reflect my thinking about leadership, and particularly leadership in General Practice. This year at Research Week, we have been discussing how we grow our future leaders, running the academic futures symposium and academic alumni reunion. You can watch the recordings here The discussion reminded me of the diagram from the above paper.
It’s interesting how much these concepts of leadership rely on nurturing, belonging, communicating and collaborating, which is what Research Week is all about.
Which brings us back to the fig tree. I doubt very much if you will ever see one standing alone in a paddock. They only thrive in an environment of diversity and community.
And at this moment, I need to acknowledge the fig trees in my academic, teaching and clinical life. The Jill Gordons, Max Kamiens, Rodger Neighbours, Ian McWhinneys, Arthur Kleinmans, Leon Pitermans, Dimity Ponds, John Murtaghs and Doris Youngs of our community. Many of whom wouldn’t even recognise themselves as nurturing an entire ecosystem of learners. Hopefully, somewhere in the ecosystem, we can all return these favours to the next generation of learners in our ecosystem.