One of the greatest challenges faced by doctors becoming medical business owners is identifying where they fit within their own organisation.

Going into private practice, many doctors find themselves suddenly thrust into a position of leadership as the director of the business.

Yet at the same time they are working in the business day-to-day, shoulder-to-shoulder with their clinical and administration team. Having an understanding 
of and applying effective leadership skills can be the key to a successful business.

Leader Or Manager

As the business owner, the doctor takes on various roles from clinician to manager to leader.

One of the important distinctions to identify is that there are different characteristics between leadership and management.

Effective leadership brings together the skills to:

  • Create a vision of the future that is inspiring
  • Develop effective strategies in the delivery of the vision
  • Set organisational direction and goals
  • Establish the business principles Build a team and develop the talent to achieve the company vision
  • Motivate and inspire people to become engaged in that vision
  • Promote innovation and invention Empower and mentor the team
Instigate change and risk engagement
  • Have a high level, longterm perspective

Effective management brings together the skills to:

  • Focus on tactics and organization
  • Implement the business strategic plan
Administer and maintain systems
  • Plan and co-ordinate activities
  • Develop and formulate policies
  • Implement and ensure 
conformance of standards 
and procedures
  • Allocate and support 
human resources
  • Direct, instruct and manage 
the team
  • Work on the detailed perspective
  • Maintain short-term focus

As Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says: ‘Management is efficiency 
in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.’ Within your organisation, your role is most valuable as the leader and the clinician. 
As a medical practitioner, you have a unique value proposition. The barrier to entry into your profession is very high. You are a unique services provider and not easily replaceable. You need to 
appreciate this uniqueness and have an understanding that even more than money, your time is your highest currency.

As time is your most valuable commodity due to your unique value proposition, a useful tool is to actually calculate your worth per hour in your business.

Once you are cognisant of your actual value to your own business, you need to be careful to use your time effectively and delegate any tasks that fall below your actual value, such as management or book keeping. This way your time can be focused on roles that are worth your time, such as the clinician and the leader.

Leadership roles for a medical business owner can often be frightening and challenging as this is not a skill that has been directly taught through your clinical training.

The key to success is to be true to yourself and know your limitations.

Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Identify leadership skills you do possess, and surround yourself with a team that will support your gaps in leadership confidence.

Leadership Styles

There are many different leadership styles and no style is good or bad. Identifying your style is important to have a good understanding of who needs to join your team to support the way you most naturally lead.

If you are leading, you will
most likely have more than one style of leadership, but having an understanding of your general style will assist you in developing a team around you to support the way you lead, and work towards achieving your goals.
The following are some common leadership styles:

Charismatic: Influences others through the power of personality. They inspire passion and act energetically.

Innovative: Can see what is not working and brings new ways of thinking and actions to the situations.

Command and Control: Follows rules and has an expectation that others will do the same.

Laissez-faire: Monitors performance and communicates regularly, but does not get directly involved in what is going on.

Pace Setter: Is the epitome of what they expect from others, sets high performance standards for all, including themselves

Servant: Puts the needs of others above his or her own. Involves the team in the decision-making and allows the team to accept credit for the results.

Situational: Empowering and coaching the team, while also providing direction and support.

Transformational: Acts as a role model for the team, and expects everyone to give their utmost to the project.

Leadership skills can be developed. There have been many books written on leadership and how to lead. I would encourage reading comprehensively.

The list of resources on developing your leadership skills is extensive and the key is to constantly expose yourself to information on leadership development.

Communication Styles

A common challenge in leadership is developing effective communication techniques to inspire, motivate
and drive your team towards achieving your vision and goals for your business.

It is important to understand that your team is made up of many different types of personalities
and that each has a particular communication style.
To work towards having your team communicate effectively with you and each other, you need to have an understanding of the various communication styles:

The Relater:

Relaters are considerate and sympathetic, are focused on interpersonal relationships and are great team players, as they tend to be co-operative and easy to work with. They are willing to help others and make great listeners. But they can dislike conflict and may try to appease people and smooth over issues. Relaters are sometimes resistant to change as it affects others and their routine.

How to communicate 
with The Relater:

  • Spend the time to establish rapport. Share some personal experiences or common interests.
  • Avoid aggressive or pushy behaviour.
  • When discussing issues, focus on the inter relationships among staff and how this will benefit or affect them.

The Socialiser

Expressive and high spirited, Socialisers value relationships, acceptance and personal prestige. They are animated and expressive, love change and challenges, but may get easily sidetracked. Socialisers are enthusiastic and great motivators who are focused on the big picture, sometimes at the expense of details. They make intuition-based decisions. They
are not afraid of conflict and enjoy spirited discussions – sometimes they enjoy being “devil’s advocate”.

How to communicate with The Socialiser:

  • Engage ideas, be patient with digressions.
  • Focus on concepts and trends and what it might mean for the future.
  • Provide opportunities for innovation.

The Thinker

Technical and systematic, Thinkers value logic and thoroughness. They will tend to focus on facts and technical data while communicating, with a methodical way of approaching problems and tasks and are detail-oriented.

As they are ordered in their approach, they tend to work well independently. They are uncomfortable with conflict and believe facts and figures should override emotion, plus they need time to adjust to change.

How to communicate
with The Thinker:

  • Present your ideas in a logical fashion – be evidence-based.
  • Try not to rush The Thinker during conversation.
  • When dealing with change, focus on the reasons for the change and the results that will be achieved from the change.
  • In group settings engage them directly as they tend to sit back. This can be a problem when the group has made a decision and they have not `bought in’.

The Director

Directors tend to be bold and direct, big picture focused and competitive. They get right to the point and
use few words – this may seem intimidating to others. 
They are concerned with
goal setting and achievement – sometimes seen at the expense of others – can multi-task and like to be involved in several things at once. Directors tend not to
be detail-oriented; indeed, will overlook the detail. 
Unafraid of con ict, they may seem stubborn in defending their ideas or beliefs. They enjoy change and being at the front

How to communicate
with The Director:

  • Be precise and succinct – present 
key points and have details as 
back up if requested.
  • Show how your ideas are in line 
with their goals.
  • Be aware that their direct nature 
may put others off side. This is important when a Director has made a decision and YOU have to implement it across the other personality types.

Challenges Of Leadership

Leadership comes quite naturally to some people. For others it is a challenging prospect. 
It is important to understand that a good leader can lead from any seat. You do not necessarily have to be at the forefront of 
your organisation.
Identify key leaders in your own team and work with them to ll
your own gaps in leadership as you identify them. Create a trusted circle of influence around you to enhance your own role as a leader.

Working with your trusted team, some of the common leadership mistakes can be:

  1. Not providing feedback – this must be done often for both positive and constructive feedback
  2. Failing to define goals creates confusion and frustration
  3. Misunderstanding the motivation of your team
  4. Hurrying recruitment – not taking time to carefully consider the needs for the organisation
  5. Not delegating

Leadership is not about personality, it is about behaviour. Effective leadership requires you to act in a way that you would like your organisation to model itself on.

In fact, this behaviour will probably be different to your social behaviour, but it is important to set the standards and tone for your organisation.

Effective Leaders

Be the role model

  • Do what you say you are going to do
  • Be prepared to be accountable
  • Be willing to take on some of the hard things you ask other to do

Create and guide a shared vision

  • Construct a vision statement and have others included
in the process
  • Use this vision as the reference for how and why things are done in your organisation

Identify your leadership team

  • Work and collaborate with others to plan, or to solve problems
  • Set up key communication tools and reporting
  • Give attention to who and what is working well
  • Educate your team leaders

Continuous Improvement

  • Always review how things are going
  • If something is not working well, don’t see it as a failure but as an opportunity to review, change and improve
  • Look beyond your own industry for successful business models

Leadership will be an ever- evolving challenge for doctors as business owners. There is no one solution to effective leadership.

You need to carefully evaluate yourself and identify your gaps. Continuously educate yourself and be open to changing the status quo.

The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born –
that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense. In fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born. — Warren Bennis. AMP


Books – James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner `The Leadership Challenge’ 1987, Stephen Covey `The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ 1989, Malcolm Gladwell’s `Blink’ 2005, Malcolm Gladwell `The Tipping Point’ 2000; `The Outliers’ 2008, Paulo Coelho `The Alchemist’ 1988, Warren Bennis `On Becoming A Leader’ 1989 TED talks on leadership – Seth Godin `Tribes We Lead’, Rosalinde Torres `What It Takes To Be a Great Leader’, Simon Sinek `How Great Leaders Inspire Action’, Drew Dudley `Everyday Leadership’

Websites – leadership-styles/ newLDR_41.htm

Hanya Oversby
Hanya Oversby

(B.Ed, Dip. Practice Management) founded Specialist Consulting to advise and guide specialists on medical business development and strategies.