March 30, 2017

Growing Need for Physicians Trained to be Leaders

Complexities of healthcare today creating demand


The need for leadership in healthcare is urgent, but effective programs training physicians in leadership skills are few and far between. In “Physician leadership development at Cleveland Clinic: a brief review,” James K. Stoller, MD, MS, Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Education Institute, gives the rationale for physician leadership and traces the history of leadership training at Cleveland Clinic, which grew out of its mission to educate those who serve.


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He and coauthor Terri Christensen, PhD, point to the fact that 50 percent of hospitals report changes in their senior leadership team in the past two years, and nearly a quarter plan to add one or more roles to these teams in the next two years. Yet CEOs have little confidence in their teams’ abilities to prepare internal candidates for future leadership positions.

Percolating in the background are the complex challenges of today’s healthcare delivery — access, quality and safety, and affordability — with physicians best suited to lead their organizations through the maze because they are the faces and frontlines of care. But leadership competencies differ from clinical and scientific competencies; thus, training is essential.

Cleveland Clinic recognized this long ago, Dr. Stoller suggests, and began offering internal programs, such as Leading in Health Care (LHC), as well as the Cleveland Clinic Learning Academy and its Chief Residents’ Leadership Workshop. More recently, a leadership workshop has been offered to Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine students, and the Global Leadership and Learning Institute was formed.


Building externally available programs based on internal successes

In response to external interest and using success with LHC as a foundation, Cleveland Clinic established Samson Global Leadership Academy in 2011. This program focuses on self-development and systems thinking. It helps attendees clarify their leadership vision in the context of issues that impact healthcare delivery. Executive coaches work with participants, connect them with an alumni network and give them the opportunity to frame their vision in a capstone experience.

Dr. Stoller reviewed best practices in industry leadership development programs research, commissioned by the U.S. Army, and concluded that the design and delivery of the Cleveland Clinic physician leadership development programs align with those recommendations. Ongoing efforts will focus on interdisciplinary programs and full integration of curricular offerings, as well as mentoring, experiential leadership and continued study of the programs’ impact on the individual and organizational strategic goals.

There is growing evidence of the value of leadership programs for physicians like those offered at Cleveland Clinic, with the vision to develop pools of high-potential future healthcare leaders, while providing foundational leadership skills to all physicians. More information on today’s programs is available at The Cleveland Clinic Way: IntensivesSamson Global Leadership Academy or Executive Visitors’ Program.


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