Effective Skills For Physician Executives

In matters of health and wellness, physicians are considered authorities. However, the skills healthcare providers use to guide their patients to optimal health do not necessarily translate to leadership expertise in other areas. Those who want to transition into a physician executive leadership position must polish their talents in other areas, and organizations seeking leaders should look for more than medical competence.

Successful physician leadership development requires a balance between core medical knowledge and management skills. Achieving this balance means a physician executive will be an authority in a variety of areas. For a physician seeking to evolve into an executive position or take on a leadership role in their current organization, the following physician executive skills are vital.


Undoubtedly, one of the most important healthcare leadership skills is communication. Articulating an organization’s goals and mission effectively enables leaders to engage employees. This can be easier said than done, as it means executives must be able to get their messages across to clinical as well as nonclinical audiences. Strong communication skills that can cross this divide will foster a culture of respect and trust that is key to success.


No matter the size, healthcare organizations needs all members to work together to achieve shared goals. Leadership plays a crucial role in creating that cooperation. Physician executives must have a talent and a strong desire to collaborate with others and encourage synergy throughout the institution. Far from simply ensuring everyone is on the same page, this skill entails building strong, long-lasting relationships. Leaders also are obligated to model preferred behavior, best practices, and exemplify the organization’s values.

Financial Acumen

Building a strong healthcare organization involves much more than patient care. Physician Leaders also need to have the necessary skills to manage the business aspects of their operations. This means those seeking to move into a physician executive position should have core competencies in areas such as healthcare finance, law, and negotiating with insurance providers. In general, physicians with practice management experience have an advantage here. However, garnering exposure to value-based financial models, such as Accountable Care Organizations, Clinically Integrated Networks, or P4P approaches are important as well.


The healthcare sector continues to undergo significant change, outpacing many other industries. It is imperative for anyone hoping to attain a physician executive position to be flexible in both his or her way of thinking and acting. Being able to adapt to rapidly evolving conditions in the industry is a crucial skill. This is important not only for guiding the organization through changes, but also for maintaining the trust of stakeholders. A leader who displays fixed thinking in the face of change risks losing employee engagement and organizational trust. Along with reacting to changes in the healthcare environment, successful leaders need to have an entrepreneurial mindset. Innovative thinking can provide an organization with a foundation for growth and major advances.

Physicians and leaders who wants to advance into an executive position in healthcare have an obligation to develop skills outside of core medical knowledge. There are numerous resources available to guide leaders, including professional organizations such as the American Association for Physician Leadership (formerly known as the American College of Physician Executives), America’s Health Insurance Plans, and the Medical Group Management Association. With guidance and training, physicians can gain and hone the talents they need to excel as an executive leader.