Alexandra Kharazi On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain &…

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Alexandra Kharazi On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent Times

There is a “number one principle” that I think of as “Deployment.” Deployment is the first step to achieving the ultimate destination. The first step is necessary to achieve your goals. Similar to a skydive when you deploy a pilot chute to open the container and release your main parachute. The key is finding the first step and deploying!

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Kharazi.

Alexandra Kharazi, MD, is a board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon, skydiver, and the author of book “The Heart of Fear.” Dr. Kharazi is the founder of Heart of Motivation Consulting, helping people navigate their life journey through personal deployment, mindset coordinates, and life sequences. Dr. Kharazi offers strategic knowledge that empowers people with personal enrichment, leadership, and lifestyle changes. Having received multiple honors and recognition for patient satisfaction, she published in peer-review journals and has been featured in regional and national media outlets Medium, KevinMD, and Doximity, among a few. She offers realistic success plans that help her audience become better … both personally and professionally.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My story goes back thirty when my parents and I immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine. My Mom was a doctor in Ukraine, but when we moved to the U.S., she began to work as a waitress to support our family. I initially felt bad for her because she could not practice medicine, which had been her lifelong dream. She had invested a lot of time and effort in training as a medical doctor in the Ukraine. But I came to understand her perseverance and positive attitude. Years passed by, and I studied at school and progressed toward my own passion for medicine; I saw how much investment she put into me. I recognized the sacrifice it took to give up her dream so that I could have mine. My parents rebuilt their lives in the U.S., financially and emotionally as they adjusted to the culture shift. They provided a better future for me, so that I could go to medical school and become a cardiothoracic surgeon. The experience taught me the importance of gratitude and how it shaped my parents beliefs, highlighting the power of overcoming obstacles. My Mom’s story, a silent testament to resilience and sacrifice, etched itself deeply into my heart, shaping the person I would become.

It showed me a different way to define privilege- being grateful for what I already have.

What type of experiences in your life that are disguised as obstacles are actually opportunities for gratitude?

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One ordinary Tuesday evening, when my daughter Harper was 4 years old, we were at our house and had just started building Elsa’s castle, which was her favorite activity. We were enjoying much-needed family time. I was already on alert because I had just finished a complex heart operation earlier that day. Here it was, a phone call from the hospital, and I quickly picked up and answered. It was an ICU nurse who told me one of my patients’ whom I had performed surgery on earlier that day, had started bleeding. It was clear I had to go back to the hospital.

. “No, Mommy!” cried Harper, “Why do you have to go back? You just got here!”

“I have to open the chest.” — I explained, slightly annoyed.

“Why?” — Harper demanded, with a frustrated look on her face as she followed me around the house, not interested in building Elsa’s castle anymore.

“Because he is bleeding.” — I was surprised that she asked me because I thought it was obvious I had to take care of the bleeding patient.

“Why?” — Harper asked, disappointed.

“Because the blood isn’t clotting, kid.” — I explained firmly and assertively, trying to be patient.

“Not clotting?” — my daughter asked, her voice curious

“No,” I confirmed.

At this point, I was laughing at myself. How silly to think a 4-year-old would understand a takeback for bleeding after complex heart surgery.

As parents, sometimes we have to step back and be more relatable to our children.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

The tale of my gratitude begins with my Mom. She always showed me the bright side no matter what the situation was. When we first moved to the US and didn’t have a car, she would walk me to school every day. Whenever I complained about the long walk, she would point out why we were so lucky to be walking that day. She noticed all these little things, the flowers in the planters, the patterns in the sidewalk cracks. When it was raining, she said, “I’ve always loved the rain!” like she was genuinely excited about it. That’s just how she is, full of gratitude and positive energy. She really showed me how to make the best of any circumstance. And not take life too seriously, either.

Many people are annoyed by the rain; this can be associated with sad moods, indoor confinement, and the annoyance of getting wet while going about your day. But rain is also associated with rainbows, flowers, and a bountiful spring. Rain, after all, gives birth to rainbows, a spectacle of hope across the sky. It gives us a picturesque landscape to look at after it’s done. It makes the sunny days so much more precious. That’s what my mother taught me.

Moreover, my leadership style is influenced by my mother’s ability to see the beauty and potential in every situation and to appreciate both the sun and the rain.

How much more productive would you be if you considered the beauty in the unexpected and unwelcome annoyances which disrupt your day, especially when you are a leader?

Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your organization started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

As the author of my book title, “The Heart of Fear,” I started it as a project. It was what I call “the fear” project. It’s more than just a book; it aims to explore the mindset of those in high-risk, high-stress occupations. It aims to create a community for open discourse surrounding navigating adversity under pressure.

The Heart of Fear: A Surgeon’s Collection of Stories on Adversity, Passion, and Perseverance explores the internal conflicts and fears that cross several occupations. These are distinctly different yet surprisingly comparable fields-including medicine, skydiving, and stunt driving.

Through candid interviews with people in high-stress, high-risk occupations, I explore navigating risk in the face of fear and offer techniques to transcend the limiting beliefs that hold us back from achieving our goals.

In conducting these interviews, my leadership approach was to create an environment of trust and authenticity, drawing out the raw, candid narratives of individuals thriving under pressure.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

When I need to lead a team, it’s important to keep an open mind and pivot while navigating adverse circumstances. As cardiothoracic surgeons, we work with the team in the operating room. Following surgery, patients usually have a predictable postoperative course. However, some sicker patients can deteriorate into a more ill condition, called a shock state. In this situation, preparing the team and expeditiously performing either an assist device (ECMO) or re-opening the chest is important. ECMO refers to a machine that performs the function of the heart and the lungs when those organs are not working and the organs fail. It drains blood from the body, enriches it with oxygen, and returns it through the body using large tubes.

This can be stressful for the team as the vital signs are declining, and we need to move quickly. It requires good communication and coordination between multiple team members.

We lead the team by making quick decisions, sticking with the plan, keeping ourselves in check, and assigning specific tasks to team members with verbal confirmation. The desired outcome is patient safety, and we need to create an environment to work toward that common goal.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Believe it or not, my motivation came from rebellion.

Let me tell you about my skydiving malfunction. I had meticulously checked my gear before boarding the plane, but I was surprised to find out that I had made a packing error. As I leaped into the sky and attempted to deploy my parachute, I tugged at the pilot chute, but it wouldn’t come out. My heart raced, but I knew I had to remain focused and calm. With no time for emotion or second thoughts, I pulled my reserve chute and safely descended to the ground.

In those high-stakes moments, it’s crucial to be fully present and to handle any complications with a steady mindset. Whether it’s a high or low-risk endeavor, challenges are bound to arise; what truly matters is how we deal with them and the mental fortitude we bring to the task at hand.

Instead of giving up after these challenges, instead, we can rebel by using them as motivation.

When challenges arise, we can choose to see them not as roadblocks but as opportunities for growth. In the end, it is not the absence of challenges that defines our journey but our resilience in the face of them.

Can we transform our challenges into motivation to continue striving for excellence?

I’m an author and I believe that books have the power to change lives. Do you have a book in your life that impacted you and inspired you to be an effective leader? Can you share a story?

My book, “The Heart of Fear,” is a collection of other people’s stories. A common theme I found woven throughout the stories was using stress and adversity as a tool for transcending to an elevated level in one’s journey, much like ascending a spiral staircase.

We may encounter similar situations or challenges repeatedly in life (going in circles). Still, each time we face them, we do so from a slightly higher or more advanced perspective (ascending the staircase). We gain more knowledge, experience, and insight with each turn or cycle, thus moving upwards in our personal growth, much like climbing a spiral staircase. Our journey isn’t a straight line and involves revisiting certain aspects of our lives but with a deeper understanding or a different perspective each time. It’s a continuous process of growth and learning.

I wrote about Olivia*, a cardiologist in California. I share her journey and describe her views on self-worth and intrinsic value.

“My self-worth, my value, is much more than what I do in medicine. More than rounding every day, or even my high-risk cases in the lab,” She says.

By focusing on the path instead of fixating solely on the destination, can we find opportunity in the wake of unexpected explosions?

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

From my point of view, there are two main types of leadership strategies. The first is best described as “diffuse,” and the next is “focused” leadership.

In the “diffuse” leadership strategy, leaders start with the desired outcome and work backward. This involves designing a detailed view of the desired outcome. What does the organization look like? How has the vision evolved? How has the growth manifested? From this vantage point, several paths can be designed which could lead to this outcome. This is useful, particularly at the early stages of a project or uncertain situations, because it relies on the premise of adaptation and allows us to pivot to other paths if needed.

The second type is “focused” leadership strategy employing specific, detailed, targeted goals and steps to achieve a desired outcome. This is the “bottom-up” approach, designing a set of steps to get to the outcome from the present moment. This is typically useful in the later stages of a project when it is time to execute plans and achieve specific results.

Effective leadership often involves using a combination of these strategies, depending on the circumstance. For example, keeping an open mind allows for innovation at the early stages of a project; a focused strategy drives it home and delivers results.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Many people experience uncertainty from negative thoughts and insecurity, but this can be changed with a mindset shift. One example of a mindset shift is flipping your feelings.

Flip your feelings- transforming or rechanneling negative emotions into positive ones. The method to turn into more productive or constructive feelings. This technique helps in managing emotional responses to various situations. It’s a method of emotional regulation and self-control that can improve mental health, relationships, and more effective responses to stress or adversity.

One day when I was a surgery resident in training, I was scrubbed in a case where the attending was particularly harsh on a medical student when she was unable to fire a stapler. Initially, she took it personally, considering the harsh sting of his words and the tone of the delivery. However, she was able to flip her feelings when we considered other reasons for his unreasonable reaction and considered the trauma of his training to have triggered him. She was able to transform the shame and inadequacy into a feeling of power by choosing not to accept his harsh treatment as a reflection of her.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

It is important to recognize that difficult news is often emotionally charged. Instead of ignoring emotion, we can recognize this reality.

Sorting through emotion consists of 4 components. Recognition. Exploration. Expression. Management. It allows us to tap into our empathy and emotional intelligence.

By sorting through our emotion as leaders, can we more authentically connect with our team and our clients?

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Find your “sequence of events!” These are the steps in chronological order needed to reach a desired outcome. Just like there is a sequence of events in heart surgery to achieve a successful operation, there is a sequence of events to achieve any desired outcome.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

There is a “number one principle” that I think of as “Deployment.” Deployment is the first step to achieving the ultimate destination. The first step is necessary to achieve your goals. Similar to a skydive when you deploy a pilot chute to open the container and release your main parachute. The key is finding the first step and deploying!

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Here are my examples of the most common mistakes:

  1. Negative self-talk refers to the internal dialogue or the messages we send ourselves that are critical, negative, or self-deprecating. It often revolves around doubt, perceived inadequacy, or anticipation of failure.
  2. “Catastrophic thinking” and fear-based decision-making. This is black-and-white thinking which extrapolates catastrophic outcomes when a challenge arises. It often inhibits productive thinking and problem-solving.
  3. Not knowing mindset coordinates. Mindset coordinates are the specific set of clues in the surroundings that can be used to locate where your mindset is. Look around. Very simple. Look to the left; look to the right. First, you must find where you are to figure out where to go.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Extracting the benefit from error. Instead of viewing errors as failures, we can view them as opportunities for growth.
  2. Abandon the plan. The flexibility needed to rethink the steps necessary to achieve the desired outcome and design a new set of steps.
  3. Mindset coordinates. This is a specific set of clues in the surroundings. Look to the left; look to the right. Figure out where you are first to see where to go next.
  4. Flip your feelings. Transform negative emotions into positive ones. Employ emotional regulation and self-control to develop more effective responses to stress or adversity
  5. Exploiting catastrophe- finding opportunities for improvement or innovation in the aftermath of a disaster. World War 2 urgency sped up penicillin development to effectively treat war wounds.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Organic Bravery™ is an inner superpower energy- if we allow it !” — as I resonate to quote medical oncologist Liudmila Schafer.

This depicts the internal transformation I needed to go through to write my book and get it out there. Anytime you do anything creative, you become vulnerable. You put yourself out there for criticism. Organic Bravery™ signifies the confidence you have in yourself. This is the confidence needed to transcend the opinions of others. It is the superpower necessary to put yourself out there by sharing your opinions, ideas, and thoughts. This superpower allows you to shed the barrier of worrying about what other people think. Organic Bravery™ is the superpower that transcends the self-doubt and fear of achieving your goals and creating a community with your message.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Tik tok: @heartoffear

Instagram: alexandrakharazimd

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Alexandra Kharazi On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.