Doctors are generally viewed as people with specialized medical knowledge and skills who are trusted to make us feel better. Until I started working at a medical practice, I never viewed them through the perspective of leadership. Perhaps this perspective is common as doctors don’t have form leadership training as part of their extensive medical school training (Rotenstein, Sadun, & Jena, 2018). I witnessed the development of a leader when a new doctor joined the practice soon after I started working in the company. Upon examination through leadership theories, I realize Doctor’s leadership can be best conceptualized through the skills approach of leadership.
The skills model by Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, Jacobs, & Fleishman (2000) has three main components – individual attributes, competencies, and leadership outcomes (Northouse, 2016). Within months of joining the practice, the overall consensus of the employees was he was the doctor to work for. The doctor was smart and sociable. He exhibited an eager desire to learn about each staff member of the company. He approached every employee individually and asked questions about job tasks as well as their perceptions of the workplace. His conversations exhibited very genuine interest in care for the employees. Doctor quickly learned the ins and outs of the company and was able to adapt to customs of the office. This is a clear indication of the first component of the skills approach model – the four individual attributes Mumford et al. (2000) stated to have an impact on leadership: general cognitive ability, crystallized cognitive ability, motivation, and personality (Northouse, 2016, p. 52).
For many employees, he was the only doctor who showed the employees that they and their experiences were valuable to the company. Doctor took what he learned from each individual and, within months, cleverly solved the staffing problem the practice had been experiencing since before his joined. Not only did Doctor have clear problem-solving skills, doctor’s social judgement skills led to a better work environment. There had been a division between the staff of each doctor and a reluctance to be a team player for the practice. This was even true for clerical and administrative employees who worked for all doctors of the practice. Through getting to understand each employees’ perspectives of company and how it functions, Doctor was able to resolve tensions and get everyone on the same page for the betterment of the practice overall, which was his goal. This exemplifies the competency component of Mumford et al.’s (2000) skills model (Northouse, 2016).
Leadership outcomes is the third component of the skills model which consists of effective problem solving and performance (Northouse, 2016). As indicated above, Doctor created an environment conducive to increased work productivity. His individual attributes and competencies led to increased morale and improved performance. The practice has had a decreased turnover rate ever since he joined, which ultimately helps the company’s bottom line. These skills may have been acquired through career experiences and environmental influences (Northouse, 2016). Doctor went through the required residency and fellowship for his specialty in different States. Perhaps his experiences at many different environments and encountering many people and situations allowed for the development of the skills significant in leadership.
Doctors are leaders. Witnessing Doctor’s development into a leader is encouraging and gives hope for those looking to become leaders. Examining him through the skills approach shows that successful leaders can be formed, not simply born.
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice 7th Edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.
Rotenstein, L. S., Sadun, R. & Jena, A. B. (2018, October 17). Why Doctors Need Leadership Training. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2018/10/why-doctors-need-leadership-training