Understanding Success Profiles of High-Performing Academic Medicine Chairs: Their Attitude and Approach Toward Leadership Development
Etzel, Anthony F
While the tripartite missions of patient care, research and education are still vital to success in the academic medical chair role, additional tasks that have distinct business orientation have increased. This paper provides greater understanding of the competencies associated with academic medical chair success, the perceptions of professional leadership development activities, and how such activities may influence success in the role. Review of the literature suggest many competencies associated with success in the role of a high-performing academic medicine chair. However previous publications do not exclusively query medical school deans and high-performing chairs or use a research-driven competency model that uses common language to describe leadership qualification. In effort to describe the success profile for chairs at academic medical centers, a survey was issued to U.S. medical school deans and high-performing chairs that they nominated. Eight Deans and 16 Chairs participated in the project. Respondents were asked to consider what high-performance looked like in their organizations and then to rate the importance of each of 38 competencies described in the Korn Ferry Leadership ArchitectTM Competency Mapping model. The highest ranked competencies were reported to be: Instills Trust Develops Talent Builds Effective Teams Drives Vision and Purpose Demonstrates Self-Awareness Ensures Accountability Communicates Effectively Drives Engagement Interpersonal Savvy Survey results were moderately correlated to Korn Ferry data for Mid-Level and Top-Level managers, but there were several competencies that were ranked higher in the results than in the comparison groups. This suggests that these competencies are more important to success as an academic medicine chair than to the broader manager groups. Qualitative data was collected through a series of interviews to confirm the survey results. When asked about the competencies essential for success, Deans and Chairs mentioned or describe several of the top ten ranked competencies, including the ones that ranked high in the survey but not as high in the benchmark data. Several mentioned Emotional Intelligence as a vital competency. Many of the interviews describe the efforts to Develops Talent and Build Effective Teams, and the importance of Organizational Savvy to accomplish these goals. Interviews confirmed a lack of preparedness for the Chair role as well as a variety of approaches to professional leadership development ranging from self-directed learning to participation in internal leadership development programs to external courses and workshops. Further, the ever-changing nature of the position suggests that on-going professional development will prove useful to new chairs. Cost, in both dollars and time required, are the most reported barriers to pursuing professional leadership development. Chairs acknowledged that training in leadership is different than the training they received as physicians, especially as it relates to the soft skills around emotional intelligence. Learning of those skills requires episodic exposure and opportunity to practice the skills, which ultimately leads to change in identity to that of a leader. Practitioners in the professional services industry may use the findings of this project to alter the leadership development services they offer to academic medical chairs to reflect the unique aspects of the job, especially the competencies determined to be higher ranked by Deans and Chairs than those in the benchmark data. The expressed need for skills around Emotional Intelligence suggest these competencies are very important to the success of a Chair and reflect the nature of academic medical centers as human services organizations rather than traditional business enterprises.