If you’re early in your career as a hospitalist but plan to become a leader within your department or practice, you can start immediately.
Before your first assignment to take charge of a team or project, start “walking the walk.” In other words, exhibit leadership skills and traits on the job, in committees and in conversations, and you’ll draw attention to your potential for a chair position and position yourself for that first rung on the leadership ladder.
Demonstrate Key Skills
You don’t need a graduate-level class or a management textbook to practice some crucial leadership skills. Start at the most basic level: how you come across to everyone you interact with. Be on time, attend all meetings you are involved with, and come to those meetings prepared.
“Presenting yourself well is always good,” says Eric E. Howell MD, director of Collaborative Inpatient Medicine Service, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, and course director for SHM’s Leadership Academy. “Speak clearly, be courteous and pleasant but not overly friendly, make eye contact … and one of my bosses once told me dress for your next job.” When you have an administrative meeting, change out of your dirty scrubs and into something businesslike.
As you perform your daily work, consider how you interact with other physicians and hospital staff.
“A hospitalist on a clinical team who is an effective communicator, who does things in a timely manner, is exhibiting leadership potential,” states Dr. Howell. “They’ll interact with their team, take quick, corrective action when necessary and give feedback in real-time in a way that’s not threatening.” As a director within a department of medicine, Dr. Howell chooses leaders regularly, and says, “That’s the first thing I look at when I’m looking for someone to fill a place on a committee.”
Ken Simone, DO, founder and president of Hospitalist and Practice Solutions in Brewer, Maine, agrees interaction with work teams is one place for an ambitious hospitalist to shine.
“Leaders have vision—and they create a common vision for the team,” he says. “They lead by example. A leader will work in the trenches and convey a positive attitude.”
Talk the Talk
—Eric E. Howell MD, director of Collaborative Inpatient Medicine Service, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore
As you practice basic leadership skills in your everyday work, you can take the next step. Develop and share your own opinions and insights on matters of quality improvement or standard processes and procedures.
“A hospitalist can display his or her leadership potential by sharing ideas and perspectives directly with the committee chair, department chiefs, chief medical officer or vice president of medical affairs, hospitalist clinical director, hospital CEO or COO,” Dr. Simone says. “It’s important for individuals seeking leadership positions to actively engage established leaders on the medical staff and in the medical community and share thoughts and ideas. True leaders are not afraid to take chances or expose themselves.”