From the battlefield to the medical field: Growing physician leaders

Physicians, hospitals and a variety of healthcare organizations are concerned with how we as a nation will address the Triple Aim: improved patient care, access to medical treatment and reduced healthcare costs. America is facing a healthcare challenge, so it would seem an absolute requirement for physicians--those most involved--to be at the forefront, leading the way.

Physicians are the foot soldiers of healthcare; they must shepherd the medical profession, and they have the primary responsibility of improving our nation’s health. But unfortunately, doctors are often disconnected from policymaking roles. By necessity, physicians are primarily focused on medical solutions to the critical problems their patients face. But while doctors are on the front line of the tactical battle finding ways to improve care and access for the patient, they are often disconnected from the development of the policies and procedures that result in the strategic decision-making process aimed at improving the healthcare system.

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At Florida Hospital, we’re bridging this gap through a Physician Leader Development Course. Over the past three years, we have been training physicians, nurse leaders and high-level administrators using a variation of the military’s “leadership requirements model.” The model centers on who the leader is and what the leader knows (attributes), and then what a leader does (competencies). The military leadership manual breaks down the critical attributes into the three elements of character, presence and intellect. Developing these three essential attributes is key to growing effective leaders.

The character of healthcare leaders is defined by what they believe and the values they hold dear. Healthcare leaders’ presence is determined by their actions, words and the manner in which they carries themselves. Intellect is based on practiced sound judgment, informed by continuous study of interpersonal experiences and methods of innovation.

Since initiating these seminars, we have seen “graduates”—doctors, nurses and administrators—come to a deeper understanding of what true leadership entails. More importantly, we also see in them an increased desire to apply those insights in ways that make a crucial difference when addressing a plethora of healthcare challenges.

Because of the skills our participants have garnered, they are now volunteering for and being requested to lead in various positions and in varied contexts. We are now tracking data showing how recent class graduates and current class participants are actively seeking leadership positions within Florida Hospital and within the larger world of healthcare--and how they are performing exceedingly well.

As healthcare leaders refine the elements of their character, exhibit a refined presence and develop the aspects associated with their intellect, they develop trust with those they lead. Then, these new leaders make far greater contributions to their teams and their organizations.

Lieutenant General (Ret.) Mark Hertling leads programs for global partnering, leadership, development and health performance strategies at Florida Hospital in Orlando. His new book, "Growing Physician Leaders," documents his work at Florida Hospital and provides a framework for other organizations as they tackle the challenges of building physician leadership.

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