America's Best Leaders: Benjamin Carson, Surgeon and Children's Advocate

A talented pediatric neurosurgeon and activist for inner-city kids.

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Benjamin Carson

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Ben Carson is known for his work as a supremely talented pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital—and for his determination to instill in inner-city children the confidence and will to succeed he lacked as a boy in Detroit. Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, a film with Cuba Gooding Jr. as the surgeon, is scheduled for release in February. Carson spoke with U.S. News's Avery Comarow. Excerpts:

What is the most difficult aspect of leadership for you?
Admitting when I'm wrong. You go through your analysis, you have all this education, you figure you've got it right, and then it doesn't work the way you expected it to and you have to say: Could I have analyzed all this stuff and gotten it wrong? I don't like doing that, but as I've gotten along in years, I have started to think more often that I could be wrong.

What do you do at one of those times?
It's always good to start with yourself. You're going to be much less likely to point the finger at somebody and create a huge brouhaha when it wasn't necessary if you had stopped and asked yourself: Could I have done things to prevent this situation?

I think one of the keys to leadership is recognizing that everybody has gifts and talents. A good leader will learn how to harness those gifts toward the same goal. Take the Siamese twin operations—when we gather these big teams, it's not because we want a lot of people. It's because this person is particularly good at this and that person is particularly good at that. You could get one person to do both, but why do that if somebody else is so much better at it?

I think the best metaphor is in Corinthians, where Paul talks about the human body and says, "What if everything was an eye? What if everything was an ear?" Can the hand say, "I don't need the leg?"

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