Forum Focus – Physician leaders engaging physicians to lead: Keys to success from the C-suite to the clinical front line

By Stephen Beeson, MD, and Tracy Duberman, PhD, FACHE

The health care field is undergoing a seismic shift toward value-based care delivery. Policymakers and patients are demanding transparency, better quality, lower costs, and greater accountability. To lead today, health care organizations require a fundamentally different approach to care giving, one that is patient-centric with a strong focus on the patient experience, quality and safety, clinical integration, care coordination, and appropriate use of resources. Physicians control 80% of the health care dollar, 90% of clinical care orders, and play a key role in patients’ perception of care. Therefore, how physician leaders and front-line physicians “show up” will be major determinants in a system’s capacity for delivering value-based health care.

Over our years of experience in working with physician leaders and front-line clinicians, certain truths have emerged:

  1. Health care has become a complex team sport; however, physicians were trained to go it alone.
  2. Physicians are now accountable for a set of skills most have never learned.
  3. Physicians’ skills are not fixed, but can be developed and learned (i.e. leading and motivating others, creating high-performing teams, running huddles, building trust with patients and families and including them in care plans, deploying clinical protocols, and uniting individuals around a common mission).
  4. Physician effectiveness is not just the ability to diagnose and manage disease, but the skill to partner with patients and families, staff, and colleagues, lead teams, adhere to evidence, and manage resources.
  5. Physicians are incredible learners when given worthy, actionable guidance.
  6. Physicians don’t like to be in the back seat. They want to be heard, participate, count, lead, and make an impact.
  7. Physicians are intensely reciprocal; when they are heard, responded to, provided for, included, appreciated, empowered, and developed…they are in.
  8. The physicians who still love what they do are no longer serving themselves. They are about a higher calling, a greater mission, a bigger impact, and they stir others to do the same.

When physician engagement is high, physicians can lead as dedicated collaborators and cultural influencers in the delivery of high-quality, patient-centered, high-reliability care.  The development of engaged physician leaders and front-line clinicians is a transformative endeavor. In the recent Physician Leadership Forum webinar on “Physician Leaders Engaging Physician to Lead,” we shared a top-down plus a bottom-up approach to engage physicians to lead their organizations in achieving the outcomes required to succeed in today’s health care environment. Our development roadmap activates physicians from the C-suite to the front line and creates a sense of true systemness, mission-driven work, and care coordination. The roadmap is designed to engage and develop all physicians throughout the organization as partners and leaders in a sustainable fashion by using a combination of tried and true learning modalities including individual assessment and coaching, face-to-face learning, action learning projects, and web-based physician skill-building tools and solutions.

Physician leadership development and engagement should be focused on physicians as collaborative leaders in highly complex systems as well as leaders of high-performing teams. Leading physicians from the top and activating physicians at the clinical front line will advance physician effectiveness and leader capacity to navigate the rising challenges of our future. To view the webinar recording, click here.

steve_beesonStephen Beeson, MD, is CEO & Founder of (




Tractracy_dubermany Duberman, PhD, FACHE, is CEO & Founder of The Leadership Development Group (