Avoid these 5 common mistakes by physicians leaders

As a physician leader, earning the respect and trust of your colleagues and coworkers can be a challenging process. It is important to continually assess your performance, communication, and leadership to effectively serve your staff by avoiding common leadership pitfalls.

All too often, medical staff leaders repeat common mistakes that jeopardize their effective leadership. Five of the more frequent errors of physician leaders include:

1. Being too aggressive. Good leaders do not try to impose their will on people. Instead, they persuade. Therefore, be assertive, but not aggressive. Truth, like love and sleep, resists any approach that is too intense.

2. Ignoring organizational lines of communication. There is a right way and a wrong way to provide input to the medical executive committee and the CEO. Right and wrong don't mean angelic or evil. They mean correct and incorrect. If a physician leader displays that he is ignorant about or chooses to ignore lines of communication respected by business-trained individuals, then he or she will have little influence as an organizational leader.

3. Being secretive. Secrecy breeds distrust. Leaders who are not trusted cannot lead effectively because they cannot win support for their actions and ideas. Secretive leaders have only one choice of management style. That is, they can only try to impose the power of their positions on people, without explaining why their ways are best for the group. Additionally, such leaders are often bewildered to discover, eventually, that their own behavior is responsible for the lack of support about which they loudly complain.

4. Ignoring the importance of knowing which hat to wear in which circumstance. When the chief of surgery is acting as the chief of surgery, everything about his action must convey to any objective bystander that he is not acting on his own. The chief of surgery's actions must reflect an interest in organizational integrity rather than advancing the surgeon's own special interests to the detriment of others. Also, the trail left by the action must not be confusing. It must be clear the action was taken by the chief of surgery on behalf of the MEC and other hospital leadership.

5. Chairing a meeting without preparing ahead of time. Meetings that start late, run long, and accomplish little waste everyone's time. So do meetings of unnecessary committees. The effective physician leader does not complain on behalf of his constituents that there are too many unnecessary and lengthy hospital staff meetings. Rather, he leads efforts to evaluate medical staff structure to be sure that meetings are kept to a minimum. Individual leaders now accomplish many tasks once done by committees.