Grey’s Anatomy Leadership Lesson

Grey’s Anatomy Leadership Lesson image DATE: October 25, 2019

Grey’s Anatomy has been my guilty pleasure since it first aired in 2005. I have always loved Grey…and McDreamy…and now even DeLuca, but today I want to take a look at Jo. I am a keynote speaker, trainer, and (soon to be) author on leadership and in Season 16  Jo perfectly played out leadership principles that I cannot ignore and want to point out to you.

Grey’s Anatomy Leadership Lesson

If you’ve never watched Grey’s Anatomy, let me give you a little background information to bring you up to speed. Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama television series. The series follows Meredith Grey and other surgical interns, residents, and attendings as they develop throughout their careers. In this article, we are focusing on the character, Jo.

Jo had a tough life being abandoned by her mother and then growing up in foster care. She went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School and is now an attending general surgeon at Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital. How did she become so successful? Let’s simply take a look at S16 so far and see what leadership lessons we can learn from this character.

Get Back Up

At the beginning of this season, because Jo had been dealing with personal issues, she decided to get help through psychiatric treatment. Point number one, if you need help–get help!

Once Jo completed the treatment she had a hard decision to make: Do I return to my job or not? If she went back to where she was working before treatment, she worried people would be judging her. Her husband even mentioned her taking a job where nobody would know who she was or what happened. In the end, Jo decided to go back to the same hospital she was working at before.

She could have decided to go somewhere else. She could have decided to give up her dreams and run away from the judgment from her co-workers. After all, facing people who might see you in a negative light is not always easy. However, Jo made a choice that was going to get her closer to her goals, not further away.

Here’s my point, if you are going to be a great leader then you have to pick up the pieces, get back up, and go after YOUR dreams. Leaders are not bulletproof. Leaders are human like everyone else. But, those who lead well choose to get back up after they fall. So if you have been in a hard place, take time to heal. Once you’ve healed, choose to lead yourself well. Get up and go do the work you were meant to do! Choose to lead others well by showing up for them better than ever before! That’s what successful leadership looks like in the real world.

Don’t Jump At The First Opportunity

Jo’s husband, Alex, works at a different hospital than she does. He offered her a really great position at his hospital. She thought about it of course — she would have been crazy not to at least consider it!  However, that job wasn’t exactly what or where she wanted to be. After several discussions back and forth between Alex and her boss, Bailey, about potential promotion opportunities, Jo decided to make one last move.

If you know me at all then you know I am deeply passionate about asking for what you want — in the right way and at the right time. Jo did just that!

Jo wanted to continue working with Bailey at Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital and wanted the attending general surgeon position.

  • She went to Bailey and asked for a time to meet with her.
  • Described the need of Bailey and the hospital.
  • Made a BIG ASK that would solve the need…even though it was a long shot.
  • Described all the positive results Bailey and the hospital would experience if she got what she was asking for.
  • Explained the negative results Bailey and the hospital would experience if she did not get what she was asking for.

Did Jo get what she asked for? Yes!

If Jo would have jumped at the first shiny opportunity presented to her then she would have missed out on her dream job at her dream location.

The next time you are presented with an opportunity, make sure you have considered all the other great opportunities you could be passing up if you take it. You never know, your dream job at your dream location may be just a big ask away!

Push Through Hard Things

As the new attending general surgeon on Grey’s Anatomy, Jo is replacing Meredith Grey in a really difficult surgery.

Quadri is an intern and loved working under Meredith Grey. Quadri is not happy about having to work with Jo now instead of Meredith, and she makes no bones about it.

  • During the first discussion of the surgery, Jo is excited and Quadri’s attitude is horrible. Quadri is rude and sarcastic to Jo.
  • When Jo and Quadri talk to the patient about Jo performing the surgery instead of Meredith, the patient is very upset. The patient demands to have Meredith do their surgery. Quadri stands beside Jo and is disrespectfully rolling her eyes the entire time Jo is working to gain respect and rapport with the patient. Obviously, this just adds to the patient’s disgust with Jo.
  • During an intense moment in the surgery, Quadri stops and doubtfully asks if Jo even knows how to do the surgery.

How did Jo handle it?

Jo did not lose her temper with Quadri the entire time. Jo worked to set a positive example and to encourage Quadri despite her negative demeanor. Joe created a solution that worked for herself and the patient. Jo successfully performed a really difficult surgery in her first week as an attending general surgeon.

*SPOILER ALERT* Quadri ended up getting fired by Bailey (Jo’s Boss) because she witnessed firsthand Quadri’s actions and attitude. Don’t be like Quadri!

Think about your workplace. It is incredibly difficult to work with and lead someone who has a horrible attitude and publicly doubts every move you make, right? However, just like Jo, you cannot give in to the pressure. Successful leaders keep their composure, set the example for high performance, and get positive outcomes even through difficult circumstances.

Remember, life will be tough but so are you. You can do hard things. It’s simply a choice to take actions that will get you further –not farther– from your goals.

It’s Not About Jo, It’s About You

Although Jo is just a character on Grey’s Anatomy, leaders can take a lesson from her today. Maybe you are living through some of the same difficult circumstances she has. Maybe you’ve been dealt a tough hand in life and at work, too. But, just like Jo, choose to take responsibility for making good things happen for yourself. Lead yourself well and set the example for others. When things go bad, get back up. Don’t jump at the first opportunity, jump at the best opportunity. Push through hard things so you can accomplish great things.

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About The Author:

Alyson Van Hooser, Leadership Keynote Speaker, Trainer on Millennials, Gen Z & Women in Business With the grit that only comes from tough experiences, Alyson has learned a thing or two about personal and professional success. From her management experience with Walmart, as an elected city council member, bank manager — all before the age of 30 — Alyson has wisdom well beyond her years! Her podcast, Stake: The Leadership Podcast, offers a fresh perspective on leadership and helps multiple generations successfully work together! Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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