Leadership in Healthcare: Why Doctors Need a Parachute Before Jumping Out of the Plane

By November 19, 2018Healthcare, Leadership

When consulting with healthcare networks and independent hospitals, I hear a common refrain: Our organization is filled with talented, intelligent doctors who have not received a single day of formal leadership training.

That is not to say that many doctors are not excellent leaders. However, the reality is that they have had to find their parachutes after they have jumped out of the plane. When a doctor is a successful manager, it is often in spite of a dearth of leadership training.

Recently, I ran across an article in the Harvard Business Review about the lack of leadership training that doctors receive during their formal education and even after they have completed their residency. It is a reminder that the structure of the healthcare system is fundamentally different from much of corporate America.

The authors make the point that medical school pushes fledgling physicians into ever greater levels of leadership responsibility without providing leadership training.

Unlike the hierarchies that exist within most companies, in which leadership proclivity and past success lead to enhanced leadership roles, physicians are granted greater leadership responsibilities uniformly, as a matter of course, often without preparation or training.

This can lead to a workplace environment in which talented doctors run into roadblocks caused by an institutional lack of training in the fundamentals of leadership.

As a psychologist, I have seen this repeatedly through my interactions with the healthcare community and firsthand when I directed an outpatient rehabilitation clinic. Now, as a consultant and leadership trainer, I have the opportunity to help shape the strategy and direction of healthcare companies across the country, and support healthcare leaders as they tackle new roles.

The HBR article concludes by suggesting that enhanced leadership training for doctors “can make an important difference for healthcare outcomes, experiences, and financial sustainability alike.”

The only question that remains: What are we waiting for?

THE TAKEAWAY: Due to the structure of the medical profession, doctors often lack the formal leadership training that would help them succeed. It may be time for the medical field to address this shortcoming.

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