Real Problems Have One More Solution

Physician leaders bring real strengths to the table. They are often the only leaders at the table who have had actual experience caring for patients.  However, by virtue of their training, clinicians have several potential deficiencies needing resolution before they can be truly effective leaders.

One of the main causes of failure to be effective as a leader is a lack of social skills and sensitivity. Improving competence in relationships with others is an important task for many clinician leaders.  As compared to others, clinicians have spent much more of their lives devoted to acquiring knowledge/skills and relatively less time developing social skills.

Typical “rules of engagement” for clinicians of hard work, command and control leadership, perfectionism (must always know the right answer), competition and self neglect all lead to behaviors not consistent with effective organizational leadership.

Physicians who are successful leaders become more socially aware and appreciate everyone has their own talents. Teams are constructed bringing balance based on what each individual has to contribute. Vision is widely broadcast but yet each individual is allowed to create their own process to achieve it. Successful leaders invite change and honor individual diversity.

Most clinicians believe every problem has one correct solution (typically their solution). Perhaps the best indication a clinician has made the transition to being a leader is when there is the recognition that any real problem has at least one more solution, which  has yet to be discovered. Engaging and empowering others is the key to finding hidden solutions and the key ingredient to leadership.

This post was inspired by a presentation to the 2008 Physician Executive MBA Reunion by Ross Ungerleider, MD, MBA and Jamie Dickey, Ph.D., LCSW.

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