Leadership Skills (or the Lack Therof) in the Medical Field

Health & FitnessMedicine

  • Author Douglas Thoele
  • Published February 5, 2019
  • Word count 457

It has been my personal experience, and is my personal opinion, that the medical career field has the absolute worst leadership training of all career fields. Though provided basic management training in degree programs, leadership skills are not truly addressed and medical personnel have to rely on mentors or on-the-job training to develop these key skills. In lower levels of medical training (ie: licensed practical nurse, nurse’s assistant, medical assistant, etc.) I cannot recall any leadership or managerial training at all. This is at odds with a majority of other career sectors. According to Lipman (2013), "management at all levels of an organization [should receive] adequate training [and] there's a tendency for companies to invest heavily in ‘leadership training.’" (para. 5). According to Rotenstein, Sadun, and Jena (2017), "medicine involves leadership. Nearly all physicians take on significant leadership responsibilities over the course of their career, but unlike any other occupation where management skills are important, physicians are neither taught how to lead nor are they typically rewarded for good leadership" (para. 1). I would argue that this also pertains to the nursing field as well.

The Forbes Coaches Council identified several trends that are being utilized to develop strong leaders. However, it must be remembered that "everyone who steps into a management or executive role has a different style of motivating and guiding people, and effective leadership means finding the way that works best for both you and your team" (Forbes Coaches Council, 2018, para. 1); therefore, while one method may work for organization A, its applicability to organization B may be non-existent. It is my opinion that the most important "best practice" being utilized in leadership development today is that of "Increasing Emphasis on Empathetic Leadership" (para. 5). Though medical practitioners at all levels are taught to be empathetic, attentive, and considerate of their patients and families, this skillset normally does not extend to the leadership aspects of their jobs. According to Loren Margolis of the Forbes Coaches Council (2018), "the ability to understand, relate to and be sensitive to employees, colleagues and communities will be paramount [and] we will see an even greater emphasis on listening, relating and coaching to drive effective leadership" (para. 5). This is becoming ever more important as the workforce is becoming more inundated with Generation Y and Millennials as opposed to Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. Thoele (2018) conducted a study on Millennials that "indicate that Millennials display high levels of self-esteem and confidence at the workplace" (p. 216), but have a greater "need for mentorship at the workplace" (p. 215) and "continual self-growth at work than previous generations" (p. 215). If this is the growing trend, then I argue leadership development, both on-the-job and in primary schooling, will be key to the progression and continued success of the American medical career field.

Forbes Coaches Council. (2018, January 30). 14 Leadership Trends That Will Shape Organizations In 2018. Forbes.

Lipman, V. (2013, June 17). 7 Management Practices That Can Improve Employee Productivity. Forbes.

Rotenstein, L. S., Sadun, R., & Jena, A. B. (2018, October 17). Why Doctors Need Leadership Training. Harvard Business Review.

Thoele, C. D. (2018). Why we work and why we stay: An exploration of millennial work engagement and retention. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

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