For Physicians – on getting your first leadership gig

Kurt Scott

“How do I get my first leadership role with little to no leadership experience?”

I get this question quite often. My answer is usually, “With a lot of prep and work!” It’s difficult for potential employers to pull the trigger on someone for a leadership role without a history or track record of success. With that in mind, you have to demonstrate to them you have the drive and passion that’s helped you prepare and execute a plan to get you the experience and skill sets needed to be successful in a leadership role. Here’s some tips and advice from an old recruiter that’s seen who gets the chance and who gets left behind.

Building your personal “brand” (there’s good ones and bad ones)

Are you seen (in other’s eyes) as a complainer? Or problem solver?

Solving problems is an important piece of every leader’s job description. So first thing, stop complaining! It’s fine to point out areas needing addressed but do it with some well thought out potential solutions.

“Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. Constantly criticizing, condemning and complaining is what breaks most relationships. Instead of criticizing and condemning, figure out how you can solve the problem together. Instead of focusing on blaming the other person for what they did wrong, focus on how you can avoid the problem next time.”

Dale Carnegie

Here’s some aspects of a personal brand that employers will typically look for:

  • Commitment to being a great leader
  • Team builder
  • Focused
  • Engaged, not a bystander
  • Thorough and detail oriented
  • Thoughtful in approach
  • Promoter of others
  • Voracious student always wanting learn
  • Problem solver
  • Builder of new programs or services where holes exist in your marketplace

Start with your current organization

The best way to build a track record is to start where you are currently. The following ideas are ways you can get on your leadership’s radar as an “up-and-coming” leader they should be paying attention to.

Your To-Do’s

  1. No MBA? A good percentage of physician leaders have gotten their MBA. It demonstrates commitment. I personally recommend pursuing given the consistent expectation from today’s organizations. Besides, you’ll learn some great skillsets including the business side of medicine. (This is often a hole needing addressed.)
  2. Get involved!
    1. Get on committees that make sense
    2. Once there, be present/engaged
    3. Look for ways to contribute to the committee’s goal
    4. Present ideas for solutions to the challenges
    5. Once involved in a couple committees, look for opportunities to Chair a committee.
      1. This is a great way to show leadership skills
  3. Leadership training
    1. There some great leadership training courses and programs available to enhance your skills. Find one that makes sense and sign up! Here’s one I know of to consider:
  4. Look for ways to positively impact the organizations financials
    1. New programs and services to increase revenues
    2. Opportunities to save money on expenses
      1. A CEO once told me the reason they LOVED savings was that if done without negatively affecting outcomes, savings flow right to the bottom line in the form of profit.
  5. Your immediate supervisor
    1. Once you have your plan laid out and are on your way with execution, communicate your long-term goal(s) with your supervising physician and ask for their input and advice. As a rule, good leaders love to mentor and help others. They should welcome this opportunity to help you advance your career!

A few thing to keep in mind

Developing your plan and execution takes time. Don’t expect folks to come running to you with offers to lead right away. They say that the “proof is in the pudding.” People will want to see a consistent effort toward your leadership goals. They will also want to see the positive impact you have had.

Make sure you document your successes with actual, tangible evidence. Update your resume/CV with some of the most notable stats to grab the attention of those in the role of deciding to pursue you for the position.

Go for the “Assistant” role or position

Finally, one of the best positions to go after is the more entry level leadership position of Assistant. This could be an Assistant Medical Director or Assistant Chief as an example. These roles often require less experience and organizations are more willing to consider “Up-And-Comers.”

I hope this helps! I’m sure others have ideas that could help and contribute. Please include in the comments to share and inspire those in need.