Background: A considerable body of literature in the management sciences has defined leadership and how leadership skills can be attained. There is considerably less literature about leadership within medical settings. Physicians-in-training are frequently placed in leadership positions ranging from running a clinical team or overseeing a resuscitation effort. However, physicians-in-training rarely receive such training. The objective of this study was to discover characteristics associated with effective physician leadership at an academic medical center for future development of such training.
Methods: We conducted focus groups with medical professionals (attending physicians, residents, and nurses) at an academic medical center. The focus group discussion script was designed to elicit participants' perceptions of qualities necessary for physician leadership. The lead question asked participants to imagine a scenario in which they either acted as or observed a physician leader. Two independent reviewers reviewed transcripts to identify key domains of physician leadership.
Results: Although the context was not specified, the focus group participants discussed leadership in the context of a clinical team. They identified 4 important themes: management of the team, establishing a vision, communication, and personal attributes.
Conclusions: Physician leadership exists in clinical settings. This study highlights the elements essential to that leadership. Understanding the physician attributes and behaviors that result in effective leadership and teamwork can lay the groundwork for more formal leadership education for physicians-in-training.