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Define Your Own Success and Set Goals to Achieve It

While there isn’t one precise path to follow to achieve success, there are actions you can take to improve your leadership skills and abilities. It also can evolve over time, said Kelly Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, FAAO, dean, University of Alabama Birmingham School of Optometry. “My success as dean is determined by those around me and what we can do together. I’m measured by the success of our school, and it’s a bit different than success has been at different times in my life,” she said. Dr. Nichols, along with Janelle Davison, OD, of Smyrna, Georgia; Bridgitte Shen Lee, OD, FBCLA, FAAO, of Houston, Texas; and Nikki Iravani, OD, of Santa Clara, California, shared this advice for mapping out a path to success.

bridgitte shen lee featured new 2020
Dr. Shen Lee

Organize your priorities. Dr. Shen Lee is a meticulous planner. “Understanding my top priorities helped bring success,” she said, and she recommends writing goals down, revisiting them and focusing on no more than three at a time. With her family, she organizes her priorities based on her daughters’ seasonal schedules. And recently throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, her three priorities were launching her new website; offering new services via telemedicine and her online store; and keeping her entire staff on the schedule and off of unemployment, which she was most proud of.

Dr. Davison

Always improve. Some leadership qualities are innate, said Dr. Davison, but you can always strive to do better. “Everyone has limits, and there’s always room for growth. If you have those innate qualities but you don’t do anything to hone them or know what your shortcomings are, you easily can be outperformed by those who are taught those skills.” To improve herself, she watches others and models the steps she sees. Dr. Davison also seeks out opportunities to help those around her improve as leaders, whether those are her employees or people she works with in her nonprofit.

Dr. Nichols

Surround yourself with mentors. It’s valuable to build a collection of mentors throughout the stages of your career. Dr. Nichols received some great advice from one of her mentors, Bernard Dolan, OD, MS, FAAO, who told her to set her table for eight. Imagine who those guests would be and take the time to tell them how meaningful they were before it was too late. “I’ve told mine that they are great mentors, and sometimes they are very surprised, and it’s become an even more important mentor relationship after that.” Now she’s in a position to mentor young faculty members and students, and she hopes that some of them may consider her for their own tables of eight.

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Dr. Iravani

Check in and reassess. “Success is very much a subjective measuring; you have to think about where you are in your life and what you are hoping to achieve,” said Dr. Iravani. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all. What works for me may not work for another individual’s success.” So while it’s important to learn from others, stop comparing yourself down to the details. At the root of the matter is your happiness. “Be at peace with yourself,” she said. Dr. Iravani said she checks in with herself every day, making sure everything is in place. Her success is at a maximum when she has a happy family, work environment and team and when she can give back to her community.


Watch their full conversation from the 2020 Women’s Leadership Conference below.

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