3 traits of good physician leaders


Strong physician leadership will be more urgent than ever as the changing political winds move the healthcare industry in unpredictable directions.

With Republicans set to take the White House and Congress, physicians can expect the healthcare industry to trend toward a free-market model, writes KrisEmily McCrory, M.D., a family practitioner from upstate New York, in Physicians Practice. In practice, however, that shift in direction could mean many things, and it raises questions for patients newly covered by the Affordable Care Act, as well as for physicians worried about upcoming MACRA requirements.

If the only certainty is uncertainty, McCrory suggests physicians take action, rather than watching passively and feeling burdened by healthcare policy decisions, as many have in the past.

Developing effective physician leaders may be a long-term process, but if doctors understand the basic elements that make a good leader generally, McCrory says they can make an effective start on the journey toward physician leadership.

She offers several traits of good physician leaders, including these three: 

  1. They make peace with uncertainty. Effective leaders help people find their way out of difficult situations, so they must be “comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
  2. They open up productive dialog. McCrory suggests asking hard questions to confront issues that make provision of quality healthcare difficult, but emphasizes the need for leaders to foster a safe environment in which to discuss disagreements. 
  3. They are solutions-oriented, not problem-oriented. It’s a lot easier to complain about things than it is to find a responsible compromise on a difficult issue. By focusing on and working toward common objectives, leaders can make space for compromise.