As the healthcare industry wrestles with rapid changes sparked by the COVID pandemic, organizations need to adapt quickly and reassess nearly every aspect of their operations. During 2020, executives in healthcare leadership have had to be nimble with their decisions that could determine the survival of their organization for both the near- and the long-term.
Few skill sets are better suited to leadership in times of crisis than that of physicians, who, fortunately, healthcare organizations have in abundant supply. Physicians possess qualities that are highly sought-after in candidates for leadership. They are intelligent, voracious, lifelong learners, a result of their heightened curiosity and scientific thinking.
This aspect of their personality correlates with two other innate tendencies physician leaders often possess – ingenuity and innovation. Together, these qualities can greatly benefit an organization looking for new ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, and problem-solving skills. A physician leader’s inherent ability to pioneer solutions, balanced with their expertise and passion for delivering high quality, patient-centered care offers a distinct advantage for healthcare organizations.
The challenge many organizations face is finding constructive ways to recruit and cultivate this tremendous talent for executive leadership. Rather than simply pulling a doctor off the floor to sit at the boardroom table, organizations should invest in the process of searching for the right leader from a pool of both internal and external candidates. This can be accomplished by working with your talent acquisition team and bolstered by partnership with an executive recruiting and leadership assessment firm.
While physicians complete years of schooling, residency, and ongoing professional education, the leadership skills required for an executive role are typically not taught in medical school. As a result, when placed in an executive role, physicians are frequently left on their own to learn how to become effective leaders. Therefore, organizations must be able to recognize the potential for leadership while recruiting a physician leader, then provide the necessary nurturing and development opportunities during onboarding and beyond.
Organizations can help encourage the full potential of their physician leaders’ by prioritizing the sometimes hidden dimensions of their personalities, and simply resetting expectations both external to that leader and within. Those physicians will bring a tenacious commitment for issues such as patient satisfaction and delivery of care into more strategic discussions about how and where care will be delivered. As their non-physician peers on the executive team adjust their perception of physicians in leadership roles, the effects will be limitless.
For example, we can now see the very real possibility that the hospital bed of the future is in the patient’s living room, and the house call is via video chat. How will your organization keep up and make agile decisions in this fast-changing environment? Isn’t that a discussion best had with input from physicians in the room? The key is to avoid typecasting physician leaders by relying on them only for clinical or diagnostic input. They have much more to offer.
Healthcare organizations possess the tremendous advantage of a talent pipeline rich in physicians who can bring their valuable perspective to the executive leadership team. For its own survival, it is imperative for the leadership team to support the unique abilities of the physician leader to incubate and accelerate ideas to invent and deploy solutions that proactively thrust the organization into a future of its choosing.