Have you ever worked for someone you admire so much you would do just about anything they asked? I’ve had the good fortune to work with two such physician leaders in my 30+ years of healthcare recruiting. While they have two very different personalities, both possess the gift of making people feel special, appreciated, and important. It didn’t matter if you were a part of the housekeeping staff cleaning floors in the ED, a staff nurse working in the back, or the hospital CEO—when you spoke with or worked alongside them, you knew they were sincere and real.
When you interview for a new position, you owe it to yourself to scrutinize you potential director as much they are examining you. What are the qualities of this leader? How will their leadership affect the emergency department? Does he or she have the skill set to be an effective leader, mentor, and counselor? How will you know if the medical director you are interviewing with has the right ingredients to lead the group? Will treat you fairly when an issue comes up about a patient complaint? Will ensure shift distribution is equal?
I believe that great leadership starts with exemplary character. In order to lead, it is vital that a director is trustworthy and be known to live his or her life with honesty and integrity.
While writing this column, I recalled my military days. I remembered a little guide that listed the 11 principles of leadership and realized they could be used as a sort of field guide for evaluating the leadership prowess of your potential director. According to the guide, ED directors ought to:
- Be tactically and technically proficient
- Know themselves and seek self-improvement
- Know their staff and look out for their welfare
- Keep their staffs informed
- Set the example
- Ensure the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished
- Train their staff as a team
- Make sound and timely decisions
- Develop a sense of responsibility in their subordinates
- Employ their staff in accordance with its capabilities
- Seek responsibility and take responsibility for their actions
Here are three practical ways that you can learn more about the medical director. First, ask for a peer reference that you could contact to gather information about the medical director’s leadership traits. Second, talk with the department nurses—they can tell you not only who the good physicians are, but they will also know the strengths of the medical director. Third, if you are replacing someone who is leaving the department, speak with that individual to get feedback on the director.
Working with a great physician leader has a huge impact on your overall success and satisfaction as an emergency physician, so ask questions and do your homework. You’ll be glad you did.
Larry Wills has been a medical recruiter for 29 years, for the Air Force and Fischer Mangold before joining TeamHealth. Wills has spent 20 years recruiting specifically for emergency physicians.