By Christiane Soto, Snelling Medical Professionals

Specialized CareLeadership is an art, something to be learned over time, not simply by reading books.  Leadership is more tribal than scientific, more a weaving of relationships than an amassing of information… (Max DePree)

But with the growing complexity of the healthcare system, a new type of physician is gaining prominence- the physician leader.  Now, in some respects, all physicians are leaders…in the operating room, in the emergency room, in the examination room.  However, a physician leader combines clinical care knowledge with administrative duties in an attempt to take a “good” medical facility or group and make it a “great” medical facility or group.  He/she is changing the face of medicine – realizing that change must occur – and is combining clinical knowledge with administrative leadership to do so.  The problem is leadership does not come naturally to many.

Creating a vision, sharing it, and then seeing it through to fruition does not come inherently to many physicians.  They are trained to identify a problem / situation / condition and then take the steps necessary to fix it.  They cannot grow into something that they do not understand, are skeptical about, or shy away from due to societal misperceptions (Alec Baldwin’s “I am God” speech from Malice, for example).

Many of today’s physicians have never received formal leadership training.  They are not born leaders, but they can learn to become great leaders.  Everyone can learn new skills, and the same goes for doctors.  Leadership is a skill, and (as such) it can be learned.     

Coaching and Motivating Team Members

Leaders do the right things, managers do things right… (Warren Bennis)

Leaders proactively develop their teams; they do not simply manage them.  In clinical settings, doctors have to tell patients what to do.  As leaders, doctors must motivate and coach their teams toward a vision and various goals.  Doctors no longer work as autonomous units anymore.  Leadership is the ultimate team sport, and it can take years to develop and coach staff to become a cohesive, cross-functional unit.  Continuously let your people know how much you value them, but help them grow by providing real, constructive suggestions.

Empathy and Emotion

If a man be under the influence of anger his conduct will not be correct…(Confucius)

Empathy makes for a good physician.  Being able to understand the feelings of others (and therefore wanting to help) is the main reason many doctor’s enter the medical field.  However, there is a difference between empathy and emotion.  Empathy is wonderful; losing control of your emotions is not.  When this happens and you lash out or become angry, you

  • Lose the respect of your team
  • Do not see a situation clearly
  • Lose focus


Many people (in general) are poor communicators, and we have all have heard comments made about doctors’ bad “bedside manners”.  However, within any organization that strives to provide best-in-class health care, superior coordination, information sharing and teamwork – across many different disciplines – are required if values and outcomes are to improve.

The need for physician leaders is growing.  According to the American Medical News, 15% of chief medical officers at health systems had clinical duties in 2010, up from 12% from the year before.  Leadership is an intangible skill.  It is not a discipline or a certification that can be listed on a resume or on LinkedIn.  Strong leadership skills can be learned, but they are hard to identify in candidates.  This is where Snelling Medical Professionals can help.  We employ the recruiting methodologies designed to help you find medical staff with the leadership skills you need.  If you would like to know more….contact us today….a representative from Snelling Medical Professionals will contact to find out how we can better recruit for you.