Harnessing the Hidden Strengths of Physician Leaders
By Joe Mazzenga, Managing Director of NuBrick Partners
By their nature, physicians possess the qualities of excellent leaders. Highly intelligent, life-long learners, a result of their heightened curiosity and scientific thinking, these inherent traits drive innovation and out-of-the-box problem solving. The same traits that might direct a person to pursue a career in medicine are the same that, it would seem, make them a perfect candidate for executive healthcare leadership.
From medical school, through internships, residencies, and continuing education, physicians invest thousands upon thousands of hours perfecting their craft. As a result, healthcare organizations often assume that an exceptional physician would also easily be elevated to an executive position. As a result, new physician leaders are often thrown into the deep end of the pool without the onboarding and training for an executive role that a non-physician candidate might receive. Yet, when promoted to an executive level within their hospital or health system, they are frequently ill prepared for the role.
While competent in all areas of their career, when dropped into a leadership role, physicians frequently feel uncomfortable hesitation and doubt because they often lack the requisite business acumen that would enable them to feel confident contributing to the range and scale of conversations around the boardroom table.
Organizations can develop physician leaders by leveraging their intrinsic propensity for creativity and problem solving. Such specialized onboarding will tap into the physician leader’s innate desire for knowledge to building themselves and their teams to accelerate performance and succeed.
During our work with physician executives, we’ve researched the foundational personality drivers of more than 200 physician leaders. Our methods use three science-based assessments that have been independently audited and validated. These three assessments measure:
- A person’s baseline propensities and characteristics
- Their key strengths, motivators, and values
- The unconscious tendencies they possess which can derail their performance
Using this predictive data to identify and accelerate emotional intelligence, one of the central tenets of leadership, organizations can create hyper-tailored development and succession plans for their leaders and increase their effectiveness at all levels.
Looking across the aggregate dataset of physician leaders, two markers stand out amongst the very highest average scores – Inquisitive and Imaginative. These characteristics most often go hand in hand and demonstrate a person’s ability to be a creative, strategic problem solver, and boundless, ingenious idea generator. This remarkable insight emphasizes how critical it is for organizations to include physician leaders in enterprise-level brainstorming, problem solving, and strategic discussions.
As we navigate the pandemic, leading successful teams and organizations requires a much different approach. Organizations that nurture and embrace physician leaders and engage them at a high level will ensure their organization’s agility and resilience to flourish well into the future.