Preparing the Right Physicians to be Exceptional Leaders in the 21st Century: How to Maximize Their Success Most Cost-Effectively and Efficiently

Preparing the Right Physicians to be Exceptional Leaders in the 21st Century: How to Maximize Their Success Most Cost-Effectively and Efficiently

Kenneth R. Cohen (The Synergy Organization, USA) and Kenneth Hanover (The Synergy Organization, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7576-4.ch004


This chapter describes evidence-based strategies found to most effectively maximize the Return On Investment (ROI) of physicians' formal leadership training programs. Recognizing that no two prospective physician leaders are exactly the same, formal leadership training programs cannot be most effective if these do not allow for organizational and situational differences as well as critical differences among physicians' demonstrated personalities and leadership styles. When selecting prospective physician leaders, the authors advocate for an individualized process which requires “Diagnosis Before Treatment,” “Three Dimensional Screening,” and the application of “More Effective Alternative Strategies” in order to avoid committing the “12 Deadly Sins.”
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The Challenge

Effective physician leadership is more critical than ever before for hospitals as well as for health systems, clinics, clinically integrated networks, and others. A physician leader on the senior team, who demonstrates both an innate understanding of the care process and the provider’s role in that process, has proven to be key to accomplishing goals. Capital decisions, service line management and supply chain management are just a few examples in which the roles of Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Medical Director, Vice President of Medical Affairs (VPMA) and service line lead brought value to many organizations. However, problems in selecting those key contributors are frequent, predictable and yet, avoidable.

Gordon L. Alexander, Jr., MD, former chief executive officer (CEO) of the University of Minnesota Medical Center and University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital, notes that physicians frequently enter their health care administration roles without the benefit of years of experience managing aspects of a complex organization. While clinical experience is valuable, it does not always translate to success in broader leadership roles. All too often, the rules of the administrative road can be anathema to even a seasoned physician. In fact, the American College of Physician Executives reported that the competencies required to be an effective physician leader often contradict those of a good practitioner. For example, a good CMO must be persuasive, effective in delegating to others, and hold them accountable for their performance. Conversely, the solo practitioner primarily needs to be self-sufficient. While a general master of business administration degree or focused leadership training is helpful, it rarely changes the ingrained characteristics of a physician or predicts the type of performance he/she will display in a new role.

In addition, great variation is seen amongst VPMA, Medical Director, Department Chair, and Chief Medical Officer roles across organizations. Purposeful dialogue to define the uniqueness of these roles to that particular organization along with clear job expectations is often lacking, serving up the avoidable recipe for failure and unhappiness. Many physician executives have radically different ideas than their senior team colleagues about what is expected of the physician in a leadership position. Candid conversations are rare, and the physician typically does not have a predecessor to tap for insights. Being a presence in the doctors’ lounge is giving way to managing service lines, taking responsibility for population health management and care transformation, monitoring value-based contracting, and many more activities. Furthermore, these responsibilities are now critical to an organization’s success. With the challenges organizations now face, the perception is that there is no room for error—operationally or financially—at this level. The importance of setting the stage for physician leadership success cannot be understated. Author Lewis Carroll’s (1865) observation applies well here: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

Key Terms in this Chapter

Return on Investment (ROI): Measures gain/loss generated on an investment relative to the amount of money invested. ROI is usually expressed as a percentage and is typically used for personal financial decisions, to compare an organization’s profitability or to compare the efficiency of different investments. The return on investment formula is ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100.

Top Performers: People who love their jobs and have a real passion for them because they encourage them to be who they really are.

Evidence-Based: The deliberate, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions. It means integrating expertise with the best available external empirical evidence from systematic research.

Synergy Screening System®: An evidence-based, three-step scientific approach to hiring the right healthcare leaders the first time.

Poor Performers: People who are unhappy with their positions and inflexible. Usually they do not change themselves to fit their job requirements. Instead, they try to change their job responsibilities to suit their own preferences.

Developmental Assessments: Create individualized strategies to facilitate employees’ growth and increase their productivity.

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