Are Medical Doctors Effective Leaders?
Updated: Mar 30
As physicians, each of our stories has some version of being a top academic performer, class valedictorian, student council president, captain of the debate team, a gifted musician, an exceptional athlete, the list goes on. Successfully completing medical school and post-graduate training adds to our list of achievements, upon which we transition to certified medical experts and professionals with the opportunity to touch the hearts of those we care for – for some of us, literally.
With our many accomplishments and the ability to impact the lives of others in tangible and meaningful ways, we are often rendered an assumed competence in many things we do. Given our clinical acumen and academic accomplishments, is it reasonable to assume that physicians are inherently effective leaders? Are we competent in developing a vision for our clinical practices, academic institutions, and health care organizations? Are we competent in creating feasible strategies that would benefit everyone involved? Do we have communication skills and genuine interpersonal relationships that inspire our administrative teams, health professional colleagues, senior leaders within organizations and the greater health system to work with us collaboratively? Are we able to work together effectively in our common goal of providing excellent and compassionate care for all patients?
Over my sixteen years in surgical practice and many leadership roles later, I have observed an evolution in our health care system where decisions seem to be imposed upon care providers, with little engagement and discussion with those of us on the frontline. These decisions impact how we provide care to our patients, and how we interact within the system overall. When speaking with fellow health professionals and leaders in Healthcare Leadership and Management programs completed at York and Dalhousie Universities, perspectives on working with physicians in leadership have echoed the idea that we are difficult to work with. Why?
“Physicians have no direct line of authority. They are entrepreneurs in their own right, and like things done the way they like things done.”
Do you agree? What are your thoughts and experiences?