2 Words That Will Change How You Lead (A Simple Lesson from Observing a Trauma Surgeon)

Hassan Osman
2 min readSep 12, 2022

A few years ago, I got the chance to watch Dr. Haytham Kaafarani at work.

As a trauma surgeon, he was responsible for operating on severely injured patients coming through the ER (think gunshot wounds, car accidents, and knife stabs).

I wanted to understand how surgeons make life-and-death decisions in high-stress situations. I don’t have a medical background, but I thought I might learn something that could help me in my management career.

One lesson stuck out among many.

When a patient arrived at the ER, the hospital staff paged Dr. Kaafarani to get there STAT.

A young female was airlifted to the hospital after a serious accident. She had severe injuries in her legs and lower back. As he entered the room, there were already over 12 doctors and nurses helping out. Some were adding IV lines, others were checking for internal bleeding, and a couple were monitoring vitals. The scene was chaotic but controlled.

I expected Dr. Kaafarani to jump in immediately and start assisting.

Surprisingly, he just stood at the foot of the bed.

He was calmly watching everyone and listening to their updates. He asked direct questions and made quick decisions. He requested an update about the primary and secondary surveys and made sure everyone heard the results. Twenty minutes later, the patient was in stable condition and her injuries were no longer life-threatening.

When I later asked him why he didn’t jump in, he gave me a two-word answer.

“Situational awareness.”

Everyone had a job to do. And his job was to make sure he kept his eye on the big picture. If he got distracted by the bleeding in the patient’s thigh, then he might have missed her blood pressure drop.

He was the captain of the ship. And his team was doing their job effectively.

He was leading.

Hassan Osman

SVP at NWN Carousel & Author of Short Books for Busy Managers. Views are my own. What I write: https://www.thecouchmanager.com/mybooks/