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Lessons of leadership can transcend professional roles

Leadership Development Steering Committee chair Kelly M. Cordoro, MD, FAAD, finds it an incredible privilege to strengthen and expand the programs and offerings of the Leadership Institute.

Dr. Cordoro’s story

Kelly M. Cordoro, MD, FAAD
Kelly M. Cordoro, MD, FAAD, chair of the AAD’s Leadership Development Steering Committee.
Leadership training has influenced every part of my professional and personal life. As a dermatologist, I find leadership training so important.My approach to this journey has been to adopt a reflective practice (first, know thyself). This has allowed me to give myself permission to just be me. This was not necessarily the written or expressed intention of my leadership training, but over time this is what I have gained.

The first time I attended the Leadership Forum, the experience was, in a word, transformative. Listening to experts focus on things such as communication styles, personality styles, and more — excuse the trite phrase, but it was honestly cognitive candy. I did not want the weekend to end! It was one of the richest and most influential weekends of my adult professional life. And the lessons extended to my personal life. Self-reflection and self-awareness are fundamental to our relationships with everyone, and this was truly a monumental revelation to me.

When I first attended the Leadership Forum, I knew some of the attendees and made friends with those I didn’t know. The weekend affords the opportunity to form bonds with colleagues you may otherwise never get to meet. The diversity of personalities, practice setting, years of experience, leadership experience, roles in medicine and community— all of these differences create this wondrous environment of discovery and connection. I was awestruck by the fact that this weekend was dedicated completely to self-growth. 

Growth is a lifelong goal, and to this day I ask my mentors for guidance and advice. There were many leaders at the Leadership Forum who I still consider as role models, such as Dr. Mary Maloney and Dr. Bill James. And I love that I still have mentors that help me! Dr. Ilona Frieden has been a gift to my life and career. Drs. Barbara Wilson and Ken Greer at University of Virginia shaped my entire approach as a junior dermatologist. I am a hybrid model of so many of my incredibly generous mentors. 

Now that I’m a mentor, I feel both comfortable, and challenged. Sometimes it is straightforward and sometimes very layered and complex, just like patient care! My approach has evolved over time as I understood more clearly what my role is as a mentor. The first thing I seek to understand is what a mentee is bringing to me. Over time, as I began to mentor others, I found myself (and still do) offering some of the same advice that was so influential to me so many years ago. 

I’m very proud of what I see in people who have had training through the Leadership Institute. I think one has to recognize that at all levels, you have something to learn. Those who have attended the Leadership Forum and allowed themselves to be vulnerable and humble leave the weekend empowered, skilled, and ready to work on what they have learned. 

Whether it is the Leadership Forum and other weekend programs, the yearlong mentoring program, and/or attending Leadership Institute sessions at the AAD, you will be enriched by the content, the experience, and the voice of others in the room sharing their journey. These experiences sharpen, polish, and prepare participants for ongoing reflection and experiential education “out in the world.” Very few societies offer this type of training. The fact that our AAD has the vision and insight to create, maintain, and support the work and mission of the Leadership Institute is amazing!

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