How to Be a Great Physician Leader & Mistakes to Avoid

Gary Bauer

How to Be a Great Physician Leader & Mistakes to Avoid MedSource Consultants

Most doctors are intelligent and highly skilled. They’ve spent years learning their craft. However, we often look to these knowledge workers to lead teams or even our organizations. Having doctors’ voices on a leadership team is undeniably valuable to an organization. The problem comes when these physicians, who are highly skilled medically, have difficulty transitioning to a leadership role.

Here’s why doctors fail in leadership positions and how you can improve to become a better leader for your organization.

Why Some Doctors are Bad Leaders Kevin MD recently interviewed a college executive and expert in the field of leadership. This professional suggested five key reasons why some doctors make bad leaders:

1. The doctor isn’t a servant leader. Other doctors won’t follow you if you don’t follow yourself first. Being a leader, they suggest, is not only a responsibility but a privilege to serve. Practicing what you preach is the first rule of leading selflessly.

2. The doctor only manages up, forgetting to respectfully manage the workforce that the physician perceives to be below the leadership level. While the doctor may have respect at the head of the table, if their staff doesn’t feel the same, it will negatively impact the ability to lead.

3. These leaders fail to prioritize and delegate. Doctors are trained to control the smallest detail. The problem is when you are a physician leader, you must also prioritize the work that fits the organizational bandwidth. You must calculate the odds of success for each venture and focus on the activities that yield the biggest return on your investment.

4. The doctor becomes overwhelmed with all the new leadership responsibilities. Being overwhelmed can lead to a paralyzing sense of burnout or the inability to make decisions quickly. Doctors facing this kind of brain freeze can become ineffectual leaders.

5. Doctors fail to make difficult decisions. Leading is hard, in a different way from practicing medicine. Doctors are the heroes but sometimes physician leaders must make difficult and unpopular decisions. Each decision may not be fully informed by information and probabilities, but good leaders take risks and stand by them, even if they fail.

The first rule of being a good physician leader is first to be a good doctor. Make sure you feel comfortable as a care provider and leader of your team before venturing into heavier leadership roles. Establish your identity as a trustworthy person and physician first, and then move into leadership. Even as you step into a leadership role, you can practice a few skills to help improve your game.

3 tips for becoming a better physician leader doctors can be better leaders by:

1. Developing strong communication and collaboration skills. Doctors can work on actively listening to patients and colleagues, being clearer and more direct in their language, and fostering open, honest dialogue.

2. Staying informed and continuing to educate yourself. Staying up-to-date on the latest medical research and healthcare policies and regulations will keep you at the discipline’s cutting edge.

3. Staying open to feedback and striving for continuous improvement. Strong leaders are open to feedback and always willing to improve. Doctors can practice this by soliciting, listening, and acting on feedback from patients and colleagues.

Want to Learn More? Contact MedSource Consultants Today

Making the transition from being a doctor to being a physician leader is hard. MedSource Consultants helps doctors on their journey by connecting them to the best opportunities to lead and excel. Call on us at 1.800.575.2880 or contact us on our site to find out how we can help you in Boston, MA; Worcester, MA and beyond.