Create a pipeline to develop effective physician leaders

Hospital lobby
Developing a robust leadership pipeline among clinicians promises lasting benefits for healthcare organizations. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

Clinicians seldom hit the workforce with the managerial chops to become natural administrators. But healthcare organizations looking to develop a sustainable leadership pipeline should look beyond the popular “dyad model.” 

A recent survey suggests that most healthcare organizations have settled on a leadership approach that combines clinical leaders with nonclinical managers in order to fill the gap in clinicians’ managerial skills.

But as budgets tighten, the inefficiencies and high salaries baked into the dyad model make it ill-suited for long-term, sustainable development of physician leaders, write Jennifer Perry, Foster Mobley and Matt Brubaker, all of the capital strategy firm FMG Leading, in the Harvard Business Review.

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Transforming a healthcare organization’s training structure to create solid physician leaders rests on three key pillars:

  • Improve feedback for physicians at all levels. The authors point out that doctor-patient relationships in no way resemble healthy managerial relationships, so consistent 360 reviews can help identify shortcomings and improve social interactions among co-workers.
  • Beef up HR training and tracking processes. Treating leadership development as a pipeline means organizations must be able to identify where physicians lack skills, address those deficits, and ensure that clinicians have been prepared for the responsibilities a promotion might require of them.
  • Foster a more collaborative atmosphere among clinicians. In practical terms, this might take the form of peer-to-peer training that allows established physician leaders to share their knowledge in a more specific way than canned leadership programs can provide.

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