As Peter Angood, M.D., president and CEO of the American Association for Physician Leadership, told my colleague Lee Ann Jarousse in April, “Physician leaders must be able to build, collaborate, motivate and move strategy in the right direction.”

You might be thinking, “Well, that’s obvious. Now, tell me how I can identify these star physician executives who can help to lead my hospital. No, seriously — it’s part of my 2016 strategic plan, and I’d like to get this right. ”

Witt/Kieffer and Hogan Assessment Systems teamed up for a study that aims to help the busy hospital executive who is trying to find a doctor to successfully lead his or her colleagues through the myriad changes the hospital or health system will face in the near future. There is a webinar today at noon on the topic (if you can’t make it, you can always listen to it on demand) and an accompanying white paper that details the study’s findings. 

“We wanted to understand the difference between good and great physician executives,” says Richard Metheny, head of Witt/Kieffer's Leadership Solutions practice, and a project leader on the study, in a news release.

So, what are the traits that separate the good from the great when it comes to physician executives? The study highlights three key points:

  • High-performing physician leaders can be differentiated from lower-performing leaders by characteristics such as resiliency, even temper and a willingness to share successes.
  • Strong physician leadership fosters patient loyalty in a health system.
  • Physician and nonphysician health care leaders operate differently and can learn about, and from, each other by understanding competency differences.

The results also indicate that patient-preferred physicians are persistent, self-confident, creative and open to new ideas.

Now, “creative” and “open to new ideas” might not be the very first things that leap to mind when thinking about physician leaders — but perhaps they should be. The challenges health care executives face require physician leaders who are capable of looking at issues in ways that, well, aren’t ossified (so rare you get to use that word outside of the Sunday crossword puzzle). In a world where the pharmacy down the street is getting into the retail clinic business, having someone who is unafraid to try new concepts and focused on keeping current with the changes in the field are valuable assets on any hospital’s leadership team.