Characteristics of Strong Physician Leaders

December 12, 2014

Strong leaders and high achievers in various organizations possess many common characteristics. Here's what they are, and what they mean for physicians.

D.A. Benton, author of "Lions Don’t Need to Roar," is a leadership developmental expert. She has observed many hundreds of CEOs, COOs and company presidents, seeking to find what enables them to accomplish so much.

In her book, she notes that while it’s essential to exhibit competence in one’s position, inspire confidence in others, act accordingly at business functions, and become adept at maneuvering within the firm, it takes something more to make it to the top as a strong leader. 

Benton says, “Top people are not magical, blessed, or dramatically different from you or me. They simply have skills and outlooks that the rest of us don’t have, but can get.”

Here are some important tips for physicians who seek to stand out as strong leaders within their medical practices: 

1. Continually explore new options.
With all the advances in healthcare and new forms of competition springing from everywhere, to “coast” today is to “roast.” Top achievers in every profession understand that staying put can be risky, so they take decisive action. In their book, "Surfing the Edge of Chaos: The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business," authors Richard Pascale, Mark Millemann, and Linda Gioja argue that “equilibrium is a precursor to death.”

The individuals who get things done have the guts to speak in front of others and take calculated risks (recognizing that the experience will be invaluable). Could this mean that, on the path to high achievement, now and then you’re going to fail? The notion of taking calculated risks runs deep among the career achievers.

2. Be a people person.
A popular stereotype holds that high-achievers tend to be stodgy types. However, Benton finds the situation to be the opposite. Such career professional laugh and smile often, are fond of telling stories (as long as they convey a point), and know how and when to physically touch others. They’re also well-skilled in the ability to ask for favors, and they realize how important that makes others feel.

Regardless of how much healthcare advances technologically, those physicians who stand out as strong leaders will take risks, learn from errors, and stand out because of their strong ability to interact with others.