Case: Mentoring Up

The Situation:

Linda is a long term and most senior faculty member in a small but vital clinical division of a large academic Department of Medicine. She is a well-respected leader across clinical and research missions, intensely loyal to the Division, her local colleagues, the Department and the institution, has substantial “institutional memory”, and is hoping to be promoted to full Professor within the next few years. She is a recent alumna of the BWH Faculty Mentoring Leadership Program, and eager to exercise her newly acquired mentoring skills and perspectives.

Jerry has recently been hired through a national search to be the Director of the Department. He is a highly funded and internationally-known researcher in an important but rather esoteric area, with solid leadership qualities, approximately 12 years younger than Linda, and a reputation for a management style that is not endearing to his colleagues. He and Linda have developed a healthy mutual respect and an excellent rapport over several meetings during Jerry’s recruitment and after he assumed his new role. Linda believes that Jerry has the ability to raise the profile of the Division and institution through his leadership. Although Jerry was trained and practiced as a physician for a short time, he gave up his clinical duties a decade ago to concentrate on his research.

Several months after starting in his new role, it becomes clear to all that Jerry intends to make important structural changes that include decreasing resources for some key clinical services and faculty members, and initiating searches for potentially costly faculty investigators focused on areas of his research. Linda and many of her colleagues (with both clinical and research functions) are very upset with the direction in which the Department is heading, and believe the changes to be ill-advised. Given her seniority and well-known communication skills, Linda becomes the unofficial spokesperson for the disenchanted faculty. She makes an appointment with Jerry to discuss the situation.

Case Questions:

  1. What issues are raised by this scenario?
  2. Is Linda the most appropriate mentor for Jerry?
  3. How can Linda balance institutional/Divisional loyalty and goals, responsibilities to her colleagues, and personal risks, in bringing problems to Jerry’s attention?
  4. Does Linda have a responsibility (or interest) beyond merely conveying the issues? Should Linda mentor Jerry for more global success in his role?
  5. How might Linda prioritize the issues and begin the conversation…?