Physician Executives: Avoid your next mis-hire!

The healthcare industry is experiencing unprecedented change.  We see movement toward at-risk payor reimbursements, redesigned care models, and an accelerating increase in technologies aimed at increasing patient engagement.  However, one pattern that peaks my interest is the growing number of physicians moving into leadership and executive roles.

Why Physician Leaders?

Currently, only a small percentage of hospitals are led by a physician.  That figure is expected to increase rapidly as healthcare systems work to quickly redesign care models and workflows with clinical excellence and improved outcomes.

Physicians bring a highly valuable perspective to leadership roles, especially in light of the move to physician led team-based care.  In a bold move from the AMA, the association adopted a new policy that lays out the ethical and professional obligations physicians have to lead and participate in the team-based care model.

“[Physicians] should also promote core team values of honesty, discipline, creativity, humility, curiosity and commitment to continuous improvement; help clarify expectations to support systematic, transparent decision-making; and encourage open discussion of ethical and clinical concerns and foster a team culture in which each member’s opinion is heard and considered and team members share accountability for decisions and outcomes.”

Read the full policy here

This is a tall order when physicians are often not prepared with the skills to create such a team environment. Given these changes, there is an even greater need to hire skilled physician leaders. In my experience working with physician leaders, I see the unending potential that is created when you pair the clinical knowledge of a physician with the leadership and managerial skills needed to unleash the power of high performing teams.

Avoid The Peter Principle

The greatest risk in promoting or selecting physicians for leadership roles is making the hiring decision based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, versus what will be needed in the leadership role. This leaves the leader unprepared for the duties and responsibility and the organization’s performance suffers.

Peter Principle – if you are good at your job, you will likely be promoted until you reach one rung above your level of competence

If a physician is not well prepared with the requisite leadership skills, the hiring decision quickly shifts from excitement to despair as all parties realize the individual does not hold the essential knowledge, skills, and behaviors necessary to be a great leader.

This situation creates an enormous amount of distress for the physician, the surrounding team and costs the organization a huge amount of money and resources. Studies on executive mis-hires indicate that the average cost of such an event can be up to 27 times base salary, yes millions of dollars.

How to Predict Physician Leader Success?

Much is riding on the ability of the US healthcare system to reimagine itself and meet the growing needs of our nation from a quality, service, and affordability perspective.

There is a great onus on our leaders in healthcare today to create high performing teams, reverse the negative environments that exist, and create cultures that thrive on collaboration, engagement, and joy.

So, how do we get there?

The first step is to be sure you are hiring the “right” physician leaders for the job!  The definition of “right” will be determined by the specific nuances within your organization, but there are several characteristics we know predict success for physicians, such as:

There are several assessments on the market that can begin to shed light on each of these characteristics.  In my experience, the Hogan Assessments provide differentiated value in the case of physician leaders by a) predicting actual performance and b) mapping these specific characteristics to the assessments itself.

After using the Hogan Assessments for 5+ years in selecting and developing top physician leaders, I’ve seen first-hand how this data can save organizations tremendous time and resources.  Hiring for fit and avoiding a critical mis-hire can significantly accelerate your progress toward creating high performing physician led teams.

To avoid a costly mis-hire, schedule a complimentary one-on-one consult by emailing me at


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