May 4, 2018

Doctors Taking the Lead: Why is this so hard?

Clinician Leadership | Leadership Development

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A New Role Requires A New Set of Skills.  
Many of us are familiar with the adage, “What got you here, won’t get you there.”  It applies to people who have proven their expertise in a technical area but are now facing roadblocks to achieving results.  This description is particularly relevant when talking about physicians who have been highly successful as clinicians but are failing to make the transition into a leadership role.  They have difficulty getting support for their decisions and are unable to generate the buy-in needed to implement their plans.  For the first time in their careers, these physicians can’t get things done.
What gets physicians promoted to higher levels of responsibility are likely to be their primary strengths as a clinician:  Critical thinking (finding what’s wrong); independent problem-solving; immediate, task-focused efficiency; expertise (certainty, having THE answer); and avoiding mistakes by minimizing risk-taking.  The irony is that these same talents might be the very characteristics that are blocking the physician’s ability to successfully influence people.  They could actually be preventing effective leadership.

What got clinicians here, those attributes that have made them successful in their clinical practice, won’t get them where they want to go as leaders, and in fact may be the very reason why they are unable to motivate others to act.

Compared to solving problems using one’s own expertise, physician leadership requires significantly more time and patience, as well as a different set of strategies to resolve issues and manage conflict. To build these capabilities, many physician leaders have found it invaluable to enlist the help of an experienced coach who understands the unique challenges of transitioning into this new role.

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About the author

Suzanne Origlio

Dr. Suzanne Origlio, is a corporate psychologist who has been consulting with organizations for 25 years. Her areas of specialty include employee selection, individual assessment, leadership assimilation, coaching and development, team building, and career guidance.

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