Physician leaders: adapting to changing expectations
Expectations of physician leaders have changed leading up to and during the era of COVID, according to Dr. Charles Falcone, a Senior Client Partner for Korn Ferry and head of the organization’s Physician Leadership Institute.
Falcone recently appeared on the Beyond Leadership podcast hosted by Dr. Brian Bolwell, Director of Physician Leadership and Development at Cleveland Clinic, to discuss these changing expectations and highlight the key skills physician leaders will need to be successful in this new environment.
The launch of the Korn Ferry-Cleveland Clinic Healthcare Leadership Development Program
The discussion highlighted the launch of the Korn Ferry-Cleveland Clinic Healthcare Leadership Development program, with the first cohort scheduled to kick off on May 17, 2022. Through a combination of assessments, training and coaching, this program helps both senior and emerging physician and healthcare leaders gain a broader sense of self building the people leadership skills needed to create organizational cultures that drive adaptability, innovation and change.
Moving beyond the physician’s “team of one”
According to Dr. Falcone, there has been an ongoing evolution of the role of physician leader over the last 15 years. The key has been helping physician leaders to see the need to move beyond the “team of one” and adopt a team-based approach. This can be a challenge for physician leaders, who are taught as early as medical school the importance of self and building your individual CV in the process.
These new expectations do not just apply to senior physician leaders. Leaders at any level can make a difference in their departments and teams.
3 Key traits of effective physician leaders
Dr. Falcone also highlighted the characteristics that physician leaders will need in order to be effective.
1. Putting the interests of the team first
Physician leaders must be more self-aware, but not at the expense of the team. As a physician leader, personal development ultimately must take a back seat to the interests of the team. Innovation ultimately comes from encouraging the success and advancement of the team.
2. Creating trust and followership
Strong physician leaders create followership – that is, they create an environment where others want to follow their vision. To do that, they must create a sense of psychological safety for their team members, in order for people to feel free voicing their ideas.
Physicians also must lead by example. They will still have to make difficult decisions that might not always directly benefit team members; but through trust and effective communication around those decisions, physician leaders can make team members feel like the leaders have their best interests at heart.
In this case, communication goes beyond communicating data. It is important for physician leaders to explain the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of their decisions to get full buy-in.
3. Taking the time to listen
In this period of burnout, it’s vital to take the time to listen. Physician leaders must understand the emotional impact their words and actions can have on their team. A lot of physician leaders can miss that, especially when they don’t try to “read the room.” What may seem like a small issue to the physician leader may take on significantly greater importance to team members.
Effective physician leaders can communicate and execute on a vision, but only by listening to and fully leveraging team members - this is where physician leaders move beyond the “team of one.” Physician leaders can’t and shouldn’t be expected to be experts on everything. The new physician leader needs to be agile in their approach and reach out to others for answers and support.
A full transcript and recording of the podcast can be found here.