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Ford vs. Ferrari: Leadership Lessons for Early Career Health Professionals

Unsung ones: The story of Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby resonated at many levels. There are several unsung ones who work tirelessly for the uncharted initiatives taken by big companies and health institutions. These ghost professionals deserve a voice to be heard by the world. In this article, I present some major themes that I could identify with strongly while I watched the movie.

Ford vs. Ferrari: leadership lessons for Early Career Health Professionals by ASC

I watched Ford vs. Ferrari during my annual leaves and I must say, it’s spectacular! Those who have not watched it, please do; 100% recommendation. Those who are not into movies can read about it on this Forbes article: The Real Story Behind The Most Bitter Rivalry In Auto Racing.

Acknowledge your Role as a Leader

Although Early Career Health Professional may not have a formal leadership or management title, they do have an acknowledged position. Influencing policy, trailblazing new evidence-based practice models, shifting the focus from tertiary — curative — to a primary — preventive approach, leading clinical teams, teaching, supervising, and mentoring students and residents are some of the academic leadership responsibilities that one may as Early Career Health Professionals carry. Fulfilling the role effectively can be anxiety-provoking for many. This is when effective and mindful mentorship helps; to build the skills in how to lead even when you are not the designated “leader.”


Team support is essential, but your presence as a leader builds trust. I know many clinical teams who have worked hard and are willing to continue to do so if they feel the presence of leadership around them. The scene when Ford flies off in his chopper while his people in the trenches risked their lives delivered that message powerfully. This does not mean you become Ms. Eager Beaver. But look carefully for the cues, when is it that your team needs you in person.

Leading a Team

Another exciting scene was when Shelby says to the Ford, “You can’t win a race by committee. You need one man in charge.”

No one can deny how vital the delegation of the tasks is. Micromanaging every task within a large team is draining. One needs to mindfully find the middle way to prevent burnout, frustration, conflicts, compassion fatigue, and deviation from the task by either too much or too little delegation. Shelby and Miles could not have built the car themselves. They needed a team. If we flip the side and look at it from the team’s perspective, receiving the conflicting messages and tasks designation by multiple sources can bring down the morale and life of the team as a whole. This is where organizational leadership needs to support early-career professionals.

At the larger level, I understand that institutes need systems, committees, and meetings. We can not deny the importance of collaboration. It is okay to have a committee for the expertise you don’t have, such as the research team, community outreach team, IT support, and so forth. But I also agree with Dave Barry on this: If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’

Autonomy and Priorities

I am not implying that conforming to organizational norms and policies does not help, but at what level are you willing to cut the cord and say I need autonomy to manage my time. Time starvation is a commonly heard struggle by an Early Career Health Professional.

It is common to hear them say that they are busy, but the right question is, are they busy doing the right things? Leadership skills include making sure that you have the resources to do your job and undeniably so, no resource is more important than time.

In Child and Adolescent Mental Health Leadership, this becomes crucial, given the shortage of expertise and particularly given our clinical duties in addition to our leadership responsibilities.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Leadership in Developing Countries

The early stage of one’s career is really the end of the beginning, and with many stories of success, experiences, and learning from mistakes, I am embarked on a journey to Child and Adolescent Mental Health leadership in Pakistan.

Belonging to one of the rarest specialists, Child and Adolescent Mental Health professionals carry the biggest responsibility to the community. However, be mindful of the fact that successful Child and Adolescent Mental Health leadership is not always immediately visible, and this is mainly so when leaders are developing services from scratch.

Our role then becomes of someone who is planting the seed for creating and planning the vision of full-fledged Child and Adolescent Mental Health infrastructure and services for future generations.

I vision the Child and Adolescent Mental Health legacy as a well-informed system in developing countries that continues long after we cease to exist. Just how Ford has never won 24 Hours of Le Mans since 1966, whereas Ferrari, despite losing that race, left a mark as powerful as persuading an Early Career Mental Health Professional to identify with and write about the importance of legacy, and the real essence of leadership.

What I took home

I was fascinated by the idea of the constant endless pursuit of perfection. What’s at stake was not the fate of the company or 24 Hours of Le Mans, but the glory of achieving perfection. Nevertheless, if this quest is mishandled, it may have counterproductive implications in one’s early professional career.

This might sound like one more intractable millennial rant, but when Freud introduced the Free Association technique, he knew how important it is to let it out and how detrimental a pause or an interruption could be; and Freud, I believe was far from possessing any millennial traits.

While I write this, I am mindful of the creative liberties and dramatic license taken by screenwriters to make the movie plot exciting.

For more details, you can check these Leadership Quotes and Lessons from Ford v Ferrari.

Reference: Srivastava D. Communicating with the on-call consultant. BMJ. 2006 May 13;332(7550):s189-90.



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Dr. Aisha Sanober Chachar

Dr. Aisha Sanober Chachar


Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist; Co-founder & Director @synapsepk Mental Health Entrepreneur. Recycled Stardust.Balint Group.Psychoanalysis.Grit 🇵🇰