Leadership in the Medical Field: Part 2

Caduceus with First-aid Kit

In the first part of our series in leadership in the medical field, we looked at the characteristics that are most essential to becoming a strong, effective industry leader. The second and final installment in this series is aimed at debunking preconceived notions about leadership and providing individuals with a better framework for fashioning themselves as leaders—regardless of their position of on-paper credentials.

Students in a medical assistant education program, for example, might be inclined to think that leadership skills development would not be important given their role in the field—serving as assistants to other professionals. But in practice, that’s far from the case, and there’s a growing movement to encourage such workers to be assertive in providing leadership in a teamwork setting, even when working alongside individuals who may be considered their superiors. In that sense, the leadership hierarchy itself it taking a backseat to instilling leadership qualities evenly across all members of a medical team.

Leading from anywhere in the medical hierarchy

When we think of leadership, it tends to be framed by the typical hierarchy: Leadership comes from above and is delivered to individuals working at lower levels in the food chain, so to speak. Medical professionals should do away with this line of thinking. The field of medicine is gradually embracing a new concept known as shared leadership, which insists that leadership can come from any individual at any learning level, and that it’s not only allowed—it’s encouraged.

By sharing leadership and the responsibility it endows, teams can be focused on achieving goals as a unit. Emphasis is taken away from specific individuals—those traditionally seated in leadership positions—and creates an environment where leadership and accountability come from all angles. The ultimate goal is to provide a better service to patients and to do so through a concept known as shared leadership.

Shared leadership eschews the traditional hierarchy of leadership and instead empowers any individual within an organization to serve as a leader—at any point, regardless of whether her peers are subordinates or superiors. In erasing the stratification of leadership, a team can focus on its collective goal instead of being led astray by a single individual’s determination to lead.

Developing your leadership potential

Given this change in how leadership is viewed and valued, all medical professionals should be making efforts to develop their leadership capabilities. That means becoming better communicators and collaborators, developing an awareness of their own strengths and limitations, and continually striving to further develop their hard skills. Engaging with others coming from differing specialties and backgrounds is essential to working effectively in a team setting, and in the medical field, that teamwork is exactly what will assure the greatest patient care.

Utilizing your “soft skills”

Interpersonal skills aren’t easily displayed on a resume, but they’re important to career success—and particularly when it comes to serving as a leader. Leadership qualities aren’t easily quantified, but they still need to be developed if you want to perform effectively in such a role. Typically, soft skills fall into three general areas: interactions with others, professionalism and/or work ethic and critical thinking or problem-solving. Many soft skills may overlap two or more of these categories. By engaging in continuing education, professional development and other workshops and training programs designed to develop leadership potential, you can refine your own soft skills and mold yourself into the type of leader the medical field needs.

Looking ahead to the future of the medical field, it seems wise for young professionals to understand how their roles figure to change in the coming years. Doctors and medical assistants, once related rigidly to one another in a business-like hierarchy, will now find themselves working on a more level playing field on which credentials don’t indicate leadership. That means that the development of those skills—particularly in positions not historically known for their leadership responsibilities—could create excellent opportunities and job prospects for medical professionals.

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