Physician Leaders: Reposition Your Role to Stay Engaged

by Francine Gaillour, MD

in Aligning With Values & Purpose,Career Resilience & Fulfillment,Transformational Leadership

A recent session I hosted for physician leaders highlighted the “evolution” of a physician leader’s journey:  Where do you go next when you’re at the pinnacle of your career?  At the top of the heap? Or maybe you’re finding yourself at a professional plateau after just a few years in practice.

For some physician leaders, resting on your laurels until retirement is a perfectly fine option.  However, for most physician executives, it is worthwhile pondering how you can “mix it up” in your professional role to stay energized and to invigorate your career.

If you’re nearing the pinnacle of your career, or have developed a strong foundation of leadership competency, I suggest you look at HOW your leadership presence can play out, either within your organization or outside of it.

Here are 6 Different Roles that physicians can play depending on where you are in your executive career (early, mid, late) and what else is going on in your life (family, marriage, retirement):

Apprentice – It’s never too late to be an apprentice in a particular field.  Just because you are 65, 55, 45, or 75, doesn’t mean you can’t learn new tricks. But if you’re early in your career, appreciate the newness of your journey and use this opportunity to learn humility, and hone the learner’s mind.

Trailblazer – Someone has to be the first one to experiment and lead a new initiative.  Maybe that’s the role you always play (in which case you’re moving around a lot), or maybe THIS is the role you must play for your organization right now (even if you don’t relish it — but take comfort in the fact that trailblazing is short lived before you move on to maintenance).

Strategic Advisor – If you like to pull the strings but from the side lines–or maybe you’ve been asked to BE on the sidelines for a while, this is a sweet spot for many physician leaders.  Advising, consulting and guiding is an art in itself, just remember to get out of the way and let the team make the decisions and implement.

Builder – Some folks just have a knack for envisioning the scaffolding of a new service, product or organization.  If you are one who take an idea from nothing to something, and be comfortable with the blueprint AND the hammer and nails, there will be lots of roles for builders as organizations adopt ACO’s and Medical Home.

Fundraiser – Every project needs a source of funds, and you may the one who connects the dots between need and resources (whether the resource manager is the CFO or a wealthy donor).  This role requires you to be connected — is this a natural sweet spot for you? — and to understand both finances (ROI) and the psychology of giving.

Coach – Although every leader should be a coach, at some point in your career you may want to be exclusively an outside coach, mentor and “Yoda” to individuals who were your peers (not necessarily younger executives by the way).  What separates the Coach from the Strategic Advisor, is the Coach is focused on the individual executive’s development, not the organization’s.


So, where are you now and what role makes sense for you in the next chapter?  Email me with your thoughts!


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