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The 6 Skills Every Successful Physician Leader Needs


The demand for physician leaders is ever increasing as the health system changes toward a more value-based model. We take a look at the skills needed to develop those leaders.

Physician Leader

The call for physician leaders has grown louder with time, as systems face changing cost structures, services, and payment structures.

The need for physicians to be engaged in these roles must be part of the discussion around evidence-based management.

Delivering care in this new environment will call for skills that are generally not prioritized. Changing the paradigm will require focused and intentional effort during training.

The skills that have been identified as paramount are:

  • Teamwork
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration
  • Effective Communication
  • Adaptability (Understanding and quickly integrating adapting roles into the delivery team)
  • Ability to Identify and Understand Metrics for Physician Impact and Output
  • Emotional Intelligence

In addition, physician leaders need the ability to tangibly grasp an organization's behavior and be able to strategically manage in roles that generally ask the leader to wear multiple hats in addition to the many already donned.

To further this end of developing and understanding evidence-based management, Dr. Nancy Borkowski of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has called for more research into resilience and collaborative leadership. The challenge: In such an unstable environment, how do we define resilience and adequately measure it, so as to be better able to gauge those team members with adequate levels of resilience and those who still need to further develop it?

It is also important to develop one's leadership framework and style. As there will be often a need for different types of leadership in uncertain environments. The shift to more value-based care rooted in the coordination of multiple stakeholders will require collaborative leaders.

Collaborative Leadership Means:

  • Leaders who can gain and maintain the trust of groups that they may not have control or oversight over, and have the ability to bring various organizations together in order to focus on solve problems.
  • Leaders who have the ability to focus on authentic leadership and steer clear of passive aggressiveness.
  • Leaders who intensely pursue transparency at all levels of decision-making.
  • Leaders who view the resources within their arsenal as instruments of action and not possessions.
  • Leaders who can effectively manage the relationship between decision rights, accountability, and rewards.
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