Those who aspire to leadership roles in healthcare related fields often find themselves facing a challenge which we could call the “snare of preparation.” It’s not your fault. Academically we have been conditioned to prepare extensively. We have books to memorize, internships to endure, and residencies to apply for. There are often grueling and steep learning curves with every step in our career progression. We expect intense preparation. And so for those who contemplate a career shift to leadership, many feel like this, too, should be preceded by an intense and lengthy period of preparation.
Tolstoy and the Snare of Preparation
I call this the “snare of preparation.” But I didn’t invent the phrase. It actually comes from the classic novel by Leo Tolstoy, “War and Peace.” To be more precise (for those who want to check it out), you will find it in Book 12, Chapter 1. I highly recommend the book! The context in which Tolstoy uses this phrase is when he is discussing the Battle of Borodino, a pivotal moment in the Napoleonic Wars.
Permit me to quote briefly from the passage: “The battle of Borodino was not fought by Napoleon against Kutuzov, but by the people against Napoleon. The role played by individual personalities is insignificant in comparison with the magnitude of the forces which move humanity. Heroes, geniuses, and leaders are merely the instruments of history, the tools of the “snare of preparation,” which lures mankind to the abyss.”
In other words, Tolstoy is arguing that the idea of preparation is a trap that leads people to believe that they have control over events when, in fact, they are simply being swept along by larger historical forces. The phrase “the snare of preparation” is a metaphor for this idea, suggesting that the more people focus on preparing for events, the more they are trapped by their own illusions of control.
Leadership and the Snare of Preparation
When it comes to taking roles in leadership, the “snare of preparation” tends to make people think that their passion, interest, and commitment may not be enough. Shouldn’t I read more books? Shouldn’t I get another degree? Don’t I need an MBA to be a leader? The snare of preparation!
Listen. Do you want to lead? The sooner you start doing it the better. Trust me. You are never going to be prepared for what you are about to experience! It will be a roller coaster ride like you have never been on before. But you will grow. You will learn. You will fail. And you will get up again. Preparation isn’t what you need. Determination is the secret. Just jump in.
The snare of preparation will simply delay you from entering the true training group for leadership. Learning happens in the arena. Skills are gained as you meet new challenges every day. What are you waiting for?
Tips to Avoiding the Snare
Are you still not sure you are “ready” to take the leap into leadership? Here are some tips to help you avoid the snare of preparation:
- Find a mentor. He or she will help answer your questions along the way. You don’t need an MBA. You need a MENTOR.
- Read. Start to pick up some books on leadership and just start reading. This will become a life-long habit. You don’t need to wait. Start leading and reading!
- Network. You are not alone. Use sites like LinkedIn and others to connect with colleagues around the country or even around the world. Network within your own organization and get together with peers to talk about management and leadership issues. You don’t need to prepare. That’s just a snare. Tolstoy was right. My friend, just get in the fight!
Last modified: May 17, 2023