A humble doctor can be just as capable and skilled as a proud doctor, and can have just as much confidence in his own ability, but his meekness makes him able to accept correction and acknowledge his own mistakes, and gives him a greater advantage in leading his team.
Some years ago as I walked the halls of the massive sprawling medical campus where I did my residency training, I came upon a sign that caught my attention because of its potential double meaning. The sign said, “ID Processing,” which is the office where ID badges are made. But I thought to myself, “Where’s the office for EGO Processing? That’s what we really need around here.”
(If you don’t get the joke, then look up Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche. I remember my parents told me when I was a kid that if you have to explain a joke, then it wasn’t funny.)
Anyone familiar with healthcare team dynamics will know that the doctor is the most likely person on the team to have a big ego. This seems to be particularly true for surgeons and other proceduralists, but I have met doctors from many specialties who seem to have an inflated view of themselves. (For the record, I have also known many surgeons who are kind and humble people.)
There are many reasons for doctors to have inflated egos, and much has been written on the subject. The proposed causes include baseline personality characteristics, the conditioning of medical training, and the lack of effective leadership skills training. Also, having a specialized knowledge base and skill set changes the way people treat you and the way you think about yourself, especially when that skill set is in high demand.
But there is a difference between having confidence in yourself and in your skills (which is generally a good thing), and having an inflated ego (which is considered to be a bad thing). Is the difference simply a matter of degree, or is there some qualitative difference? And what is actually bad about having a big ego?