Leadership characteristics and business management in modern academic surgery

Langenbecks Arch Surg. 2006 Apr;391(2):149-56. doi: 10.1007/s00423-006-0040-x. Epub 2006 Mar 30.


Background: Management skills are necessary to successfully lead a surgical department in future.

Objective: This article focuses on practical aspects of surgical management, leadership and training. It demonstrates how the implementation of business management concepts changes workflow management and surgical training.

Methods: A systematic Medline search was performed and business management publications were analysed.

Results: Neither management nor leadership skills are inborn but acquired. Management is about planning, controlling and putting appropriate structures in place. Leadership is anticipating and coping with change and people, and adopting a visionary stance. More change requires more leadership. Changes in surgery occur with unprecedented speed because of a growing demand for surgical procedures with limited financial resources. Modern leadership and management theories have to be tailored to surgery. It is clear that not all of them are applicable but some of them are essential for surgeons. In business management, common traits of successful leaders include team orientation and communication skills. As the most important character, however, appears to be the emotional intelligence. Novel training concepts for surgeons include on-the-job training and introduction of improved workflow management systems, e.g. the central case management.

Conclusion: The need for surgeons with advanced skills in business, finance and organisational management is evident and will require systematic and tailored training.

MeSH terms

  • Entrepreneurship*
  • General Surgery / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Physician Executives
  • Professional Practice