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Leadership in Non-Clinical Careers: Things You Can Do

Physicians seeking non-clinical careers can apply leadership models used in industry.

Leadership is everyone’s business—whether the constituents are in industry, government, education, or communities.  Physicians who transition to non-clinical careers may need to sharpen their leadership skills—and they can draw on the lessons learned by others. 

Here is a checklist of questions I have used in industry as part of a periodic self-assessment.  Physicians may find this useful—and can adapt it to fit their needs in other applications.  Also included is an outline of time-tested actions physicians can take in their new leadership roles. 


1.  Goals and Objectives

  • Are they clear to me, my direct reports and team?
  • Are my boss and I in agreement?
  • Does the rest of the organization understand and agree?
  • Do I know how to achieve them?

 2How am I Doing on Number 1?

  • What are the gaps, and am I taking steps to fix them?
  • Does my boss know and agree/support?

 3.  Vision

  • Do I know where we need to be in three years?
  • Do my team/boss/colleagues know and agree?
  • Do I have a plan to get there?

 4.  Am I a Role Model Leader?

  • Embody values of the organization
  • Good example
  • Sense of humor
  • Work hard

 5.  Do I Communicate Well?

  • With my team
  • With my peers/colleagues
  • With my boss, the CEO, and the Executive Committee

 6.  Do I Manage My Boss Well?

  • Understand what he or she wants
  • Seek feedback
  • Frequent/succinct/complete
  • No Surprises

 7Do I Develop My People?

  • Coaching, honest feedback, high standards
  • Career development and training
  • One outsider for every five moves
  • Recognition

 8.  Do I Know Myself?

  • Honest self-appraisal
  • Trusted advisor
  • Seek to grow

 9.  Manager

  • Visible
  • Delegate properly
  • Organized


1.  Create the Environment

  • Grant trust and respect
  • Set expectations
  • Define the space for success
  • Build ownership
  • Reinforce cohesiveness through values—values guide leadership actions   
  • Create heroes—give away the glory, take the blame
  • Maintain optimism in adversity—calmly and thoughtfully evaluate the problem, resolve it, and then return to normal operations

 2.  Communicate

  • Listening

          -         Just listen

          -         Ask questions: Ask for advice and opinions, seek informaiton.  

   -         Pause

          -         Ruminate

          -         Mirror

  •  Speaking

           -         Begin from first principles

           -         Create a shared reality

           -         Give everyone the big picture

           -         Clarify the logic

           -         Close the loop—presentations, high-level meetings, professional development plans.

3.  Encourage Diverse Perspectives

Different perspectives are valuable.  Diversity of backgrounds and experience of team members contributes strength to the team.  Each of us can teach and learn from others.  Collegiality and cohesiveness matter.

  • Appreciate dissent
  • Seek newcomer’s views
  • Declare all tables to be round
  • Schedule “Quiet Hour”
  • Embrace a “Devil’s Advocate”
  • Search for alternative approaches
  • Extract lessons from experience—review “lessons learned” from unclear objectives, flawed logic, hidden assumptions, inadequate challenging, and poor listening

 4.  Model Self-Development and Renewal

  • Build a development plan
  • Critique your own performance
  • Ask stretch questions—pose questions specifically designed to encourage “stretch thinking” and develop management perspectives.  Example: “What would you do if you were in my position?”
  • Seize teaching moments / learning opportunities
  • Use a mentor—seek outsiders’ advice and perspectives
  • Commit the time
  • Reflect

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