Developing physicians to become enterprise leaders - photo shows line of physicians standing with arms crossed

Developing Physicians to Become Enterprise Leaders

In healthcare, change is inevitable — and necessary. A system so multifaceted, impacting the lives of millions, is fundamentally rooted in its own evolution. But change can also leave organizations and their stakeholders with a range of uncertainty. In times like these, leadership must act vigilantly to continually adapt to these changes, while preserving the quality of care in a safe, secure setting for its patients, providers, and related team members. Within this, leadership must also consider the effect that any top-level decision has on daily processes.

With industry shifts over the last decade, the dynamic between physicians and their administrators has strained and many physicians feel, now more than ever, that they have less of a voice in how healthcare is administered. Because of this, progressive healthcare systems have resolved to create more opportunities for physicians to play a leadership role in the extended administration of an organization. Integrating both physicians and executives into leadership roles opens the door to generate new ideas, further collaboration, and encourage innovation.

Physician leadership development is a complex term and an even more complex process to implement. An effective organization does not simply expect physicians to conform to a tight executive mold, but rather the organization must model its system to adapt to a new era of leader advocated needs.

Leadership development propagates physicians’ day-to-day skills in managing small groups and enables leaders to hone those strengths into big picture decision-making, while considering the overall effect that their daily work has on the entire organization. Assimilating physicians into executive administration promotes more value-based and patient-centered care because they offer real-world experience and real-time feedback.

The first priority when physicians are brought on as leaders is the initial onboarding phase. In our whirlwind industry, formal training in an executive role can be left to the back burner when more pressing matters are immediately at stake. Because physician leaders are intelligent and highly skilled in the first place, it is common to make the mistake of assuming they are well-off with no guidance at all.

Spend time to save time — this vital step reduces the degree of turbulence on the path from small- to large-scale management. Equipping leaders with the proper tools and guidance from the start can lessen the risk of failure and the need for correction later on, while empowering them to rise up and affect change in the here and now.

In organizations with blended leadership models, it is not uncommon for a physician that sits on a board of executives to be seen as having a limited perspective — needed only for expertise in one area, but not essential to any further decision-making beyond that. Physicians can be made to feel like they don’t know enough about other departments to have a legitimate say in any matters beyond the clinic. This is just one more reason for organizations to engage in leadership training that offers physicians time to understand the roles outside of their own and consider how they might better work together.

Another obstacle that some organizations have observed is the expectation of physician leaders to balance their positions on an executive team while simultaneously tending to their other more time-sensitive clinical duties. An imbalance between the team and physician in this manner can result in burnout, lack of interest, and reduced engagement. If the others at the table are able to break from their desks for executive meetings, systems should be in place to accommodate physicians too.

The most successful teams lift up each individual expert, while certifying that everyone at the table has a basic grasp of each other’s roles and responsibilities and how they impact one another. Achieving this level of enlightenment is key to cross-collaboration, harmony, and an organization’s competitive edge.

Transparency and a unified identity are also crucial to setting your team apart. Leaders need to be empowered by their own strengths, considerate of each other’s differences, and confident in the group’s knowledge, synergy, and competencies.

Leadership development is not solely for those in lab coats. This process should be an opportunity for leaders of all levels and all departments to be exposed to areas of unfamiliarity. Physicians, as well as the other leaders they engage with, must always be exploring lateral opportunities for ongoing learning and growth.

Everyone can learn something from someone else, and when we understand each other more, we consider a manifold of viewpoints when it comes to impactful decision-making. If you are perceptive to the significance that your day-to-day decisions have throughout an organization, you can enact a more thoughtful, productive strategy towards routine practices.

Physician leaders are crucial to the future of healthcare. These leaders, if developed and supported properly, have the expertise and insights to improve millions of lives and countless communities. Learn more about our holistic approach for developing and integrating physicians to be enterprise leaders in our recent article with Furst Group in the Wharton Healthcare Quarterly: