The amount of education and training that was required to become a physician has put you in a natural position of leadership. From your patients, nurses, and other supporting team members, everyone looks to you for answers and direction. In recent surveys, physicians have identified more autonomy and participatory decision making as top attributes of a positive organizational culture. The survey responses are a good indicator that many of today’s practicing physicians are craving the opportunity to take on more leadership roles within their organizations. Let’s look at five steps physicians can take to become a leader. Hospitals with physician leadership have higher quality scores than non-physician-led hospitals.
Know the Characteristics of a Good Physician Leader
One of the most important traits of a good physician leader is self-awareness. It is critical to understand how you are perceived by your team and how your actions impact those around you. Being a leader requires a sense of humility and a desire to create an aura of approachability to ensure others feel comfortable engaging in conversation or discussion with you. In years past, our parents used to tell us to do something because they said so, today, leaders have to be able to communicate why something needs to be done and how it impacts the desired outcomes. Communication skills are key, along with creating an environment of transparency that welcomes the input of others who want to share their perspective.
Be Open to Process Improvements and Change
A physician leader can take a step back and understand the big picture. As a leader, you must begin to envision how your team fits within the framework of the organization and how you collectively support the corporate goals, values, and vision. A physician leader will be able to consider opposing viewpoints, find weak spots and inefficiencies in the process, and be bold enough to take action to improve the situation. Often times, those you are leading are contributing to an inefficient process or quality concern, your leadership means you need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your staff and be willing to coach and mentor them as needed.
Get More Involved
On your path to a leadership role, you shouldn’t expect that one day you will get a tap on the shoulder and be told that you are now a leader. Along the way, put yourself out there by getting involved in organizational activities, process improvement task forces, and other areas where you can not only gain different experiences but are meeting and interacting with others in the organization.
Understand the Industry Outside of Your Specialty or Practice
To effectively take on the role of a physician leader, taking the time to explore, study, and understand all aspects of our rapidly changing healthcare industry is a necessity. Whether through industry journals, online or in-person webinars or training, the healthcare industry is getting more complex by the day and you should maintain a solid understanding of how it is evolving and impacting the organization as a whole. Healthcare needs physician leaders that understand the big picture and can innovate to shape the future of the industry.
Sharpen Your Saw
Being a physician leader is more than a title that says you are in charge. Leadership requires an understanding of many things that were not necessarily part of your medical education and training. Many physicians who are pursuing their medical degree today are also pursuing an M.B.A. in Healthcare Administration. If your educational track didn’t include that focus, prepare yourself through continuing education courses that are geared toward developing a deeper understanding of management, organizational strategies, and finance. Also, if recognizing subordinates for their achievements or using positive coaching techniques isn’t a natural activity for you in the workplace, it is an important trait to develop as you move forward in your leadership career. Being a physician leader is as much about personal improvement as it is the development of those around you.
Jackson Physician Search has a team of industry professionals who can help you discover your perfect leadership opportunity. Whether you are interested in finding out what is available for someone with your experience or you are ready to take the next step in your career, our experienced recruitment professionals are available to be your career partner. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you thrive.
Through the year 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects physician employment to increase by 13%, with rural and underserved population centers even higher.
Not in the literal sense, but many physicians today are working to ensure that their career is on FIRE.