Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The word came up in two separate conversations, from two very different people. Every two weeks, we ask someone associated with ACPE to spend 45 minutes sharing his/her insight on the trends occurring in health care. Both people are nationally known, one a recruiter, the other a physician leader. With the number of physician leadership roles growing rapidly in the past few months, I want to share their comments because they’re important for both job seekers and leaders who plan on staying in their current organizations.

The recruiter said physicians seeking a new position for all the wrong reasons are spotted very quickly in the process. These physicians often say they’ve discovered how talented they are in management and know they would be successful in their first full time management role. They haven’t invested in management training because they possess “natural talent”, are highly critical of the leadership of their current organization and say they no longer enjoy clinical work. The term the recruiter used to describe their demeanor? Arrogant. Further, these doctors are quickly dropped from candidacy.

What does arrogant mean? Here are a few definitions – none of them conducive to effective leadership! “Overbearing pride evidenced by a superior manner toward inferiors.” “Haughtiness.” “Contemptuousness – the manifestation of scorn and contempt: every subordinate sensed his contemptuousness and hated him in return.” “The trait of being imperious and overbearing.”

The other guest, a health system physician CEO, said over the years he had to fire several excellent clinicians who had very poor communication skills and lacked self-awareness. They often had very good analytic abilities, great insight into problems and solutions, but could not manage a civil word with peers, subordinates or superiors. Some were friends. Again, the term arrogant was used to describe their behavior.

With teamwork replacing autonomy and independence, arrogance is a trait that will derail you and your career. It’s OK to be proud of your achievements as a physician, but it should come across as quiet confidence to others on the health care team. Some physicians DO have a natural talent for leadership and business. Most of us, however, must learn new concepts and behaviors we weren’t taught in our medical training. I’ve heard stories from coaches and mentors about successful behavior change in arrogant physicians who recognized how they were being perceived, and sought to change. Some of my most valuable experiences have been helping smart, talented physicians change their behaviors.

If you’re one of the hundreds of physicians who are looking for a rewarding role in leadership or management, be sure your first interview puts you in the best possible light. We want you to be successful. Many people are watching and curious about the impact of more physician leadership in the health care industry.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such a thoughtful post. I will be starting my clerkships soon and I will keep this in mind during all my interactions.


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