INTJ: 2% of People, Most of MD Anderson Administration

INTJ (Introverted,
Intuitive, Thinking, Judgmental): 2% of the People, Most of the MD Anderson


Leonard Zwelling

         My time at MD Anderson was a roller coaster ride. It started
by being beaten into academic unconsciousness while presenting my research at a
Leukemia Department seminar for Dr. Frieriech shortly after arriving in 1984. It
continued with Wenonah Nelson getting me through my first clinical experiences
in Station 19, through establishing my lab, going to business school, being a
VP and being fired. Wow! Only at Anderson.

         Now, deep into my fourth career (doctor, researcher,
administrator and health policy guy+CMO {that may be five}), I can look back on
all of the 30 years and laugh. But it wasn’t all that funny when I was the
focus of misfortune or bad luck.

         One of the great blessings of working for Irv Krakoff was
that he made the bad times no worse than they had to be. He was no anesthetic.
He was a reality check who got me back in line and allowed me to grow through
the misfortune and my own bad behavior. For that, I will always be grateful to
him. Drs. Hohn and Kripke too were like this giving me room to be me but hemming
me in when that was what was needed. All of these people had one critical trait
in common. They knew that what made me good made me bad. And I believe that is
true of us all. All you need to do to be a good leader is to know that about
each of the people working for you so that you can reward the good and manage
the bad all while dealing with one, whole person. And try to keep them whole to
the best of your ability.

         What does an organization look like when this is not what is
happening at the leadership level?

         First, a good leader knows the bad-good dichotomy about him-
or herself. If a leader knows what she does well and what she does poorly, she
can make the most of her talent and hire others to help her overcome her
weaknesses. A leader without an accurate sense of self will never be able to
effectively lead others.

         Second, this automatically means that if the processes a
leader has developed to accomplish his or her plan are good, flexible and
tolerant most people in the organization will be productive and those who are
not, are not necessarily bad, but simply do not fit. I would say that about
myself and Anderson when I returned from DC. There was really nothing of
interest for me to do at Anderson and while I treaded water for a while, that
can only last so long. Earlier in my MD Anderson career, not fitting a precise
mold was thought to be a good thing. This is no longer the case (see below).

         Third, a poor leader will surround himself with clones. He
or she will have a staff of those who agree with him or her, negate the
heterogeneity of various viewpoints that can so valuably serve a leader and
create an environment of group think. It is my contention that this is
precisely the case at Anderson and did not start with Ron DePinho although he
has turned it into high art.

         Some of you may remember that Dr. Mendelsohn’s first Chief
Academic Officer was none other than Andy Von Eschenbach. He lasted about a
year before stepping down. Andy was the runner-up for John’s job and clearly
had a very different view of the Anderson, its faculty, its future and its
presidency than did Dr. Mendelsohn. But even more essentially, Andy had a
completely unique personality for an academic leader. For those of you who know
about the Meyers-Briggs out there, suffice it to say that academia is top-loaded
with INTJs, a type usually representing no more than 1 to 2 % of the population.
How much so?

critical is INTJness to academic leadership that my Meyers-Briggs results from
business school did not match those obtained during retesting after working for
Dr. Mendelsohn as a VP. I had become an INTJ, probably to survive. The miracle
is that I was able to survive at all for my personality was antithetical to the
one needed to thrive in the Mendelsohn administration. I am no I. I am an E,
but there could only be one E when John was in the room and that is John,
unless President Bush 41 was around. John was not able to get the non-INTJs
on-board. Instead, the INTJs ruled and the rest of us (and there weren’t too
many) struggled to survive by masquerading as INTJs, even, in my case, managing
to fool myself.

         Andy was no INTJ either and rather than figure out how to
have Andy’s unique talents serve his administration, John got as sideways with
Andy as he had with Dave Hohn. Margaret survived for so long because she was so
smart and women are just better at that adaptability stuff. Besides, she was a
proud INTJ.

         And I thought it couldn’t get worse. Silly me.

         Now Ron has literally scared the hell out of everyone with
random firings of people whose praises he sang just weeks before canning them.
With each subsequent appointment, Dr. DePinho has managed to place weaker and
weaker leaders into positions of great responsibility so that he can manage to
not manage them. Why bother when you can frighten them?

         The only problem with this is that a reign of terror is not
a formula for progress in the fight against cancer. There was a time when the
strong men of academic medicine could terrorize underlings into doing what they
wanted. Those days, thank goodness, are gone, but that won’t stop the likes of
Ron DePinho from using the strong man tactics of old while surrounding himself
with yes men (and I do mean men—white men). Back to the Future!

         While I am no fan of Barack Obama, I always gave him credit
for hiring his primary rival Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State. I also give
her great kudos for taking the job and doing it well when I really believe she
might have done it differently if allowed to do so. She’s tougher than she was
allowed to be. (Do you really believe that great windsurfer John Kerry is
tougher than she is? Me neither).

         Unfortunately, the rest of the Obama team was relatively
lack luster and when challenged withdrew into their shells rather than reach
out for help, particularly where the Congress was concerned.

         The MD Anderson story of the Ron DePinho years has yet to be
completely written, but I cannot imagine it will be looked upon with a whole lot
of fondness by many.

         I thought the oppressive nature of the Mendeslohn
administration could not be equaled in the way it bent people to behave in a
specific way as opposed to taking advantage of their various talents. DePinho
is worse and Anderson is worse for it.

         It takes great leadership, confidence and management to
admit your own weaknesses and hire around them. It is indeed a rare commodity
in America and the world. It certainly is rare at 1515 now and has been for
quite some time.

lived through trying to survive in a psychologically hostile environment for
one of my ilk, I can only imagine how much harder that is now. I cannot even
remotely imagine why anyone with any personal integrity or creativity would
want to work in such an administration as the one in place at Anderson now.
But, of course, that is why I am gone. I never did get it.

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