There are many qualities that are required to make a great clinical leader. They get noticed, are trusted and have the potential to become influential, writes Simon Potts

Group of clinical professionals talking

For some, leadership is seen as “a thankless task” yet for others, putting one’s head above the parapet has been the seminal moment of their career. 

In our line of work we meet many clinicians ambitious to become leaders of a directorate, a trust, or in some cases to have national influence on healthcare policy. 

Some are afraid of what might be involved and some have re-energised their passion for shaping the future of healthcare provision beyond their clinic’s waiting room. 

Many tell tales of the poor management or visionless leadership they have experienced, motivating them to make their mark on doing “what’s right for patients”.

To be an even moderately successful leader, you have to have drive and motivation, qualities that help develop one’s resilience - you might need some of that too! 

While key, those three qualities combined are not the passport to great leadership. Really inspiring clinicians have an advantage over their career general manager counterparts because they know how to make patients feel like they are the single most important person in the world. 

Clinicians able to translate that skill into the daily dealings with staff and colleagues will get noticed, be trusted and have the potential to become influential.

‘Inspiring clinicians have an advantage over their general manager counterparts’

In a hospital environment influential leaders understand how hospitals work. They understand service planning, contract negotiation, funding sources and who to influence to effect change. They will also have a deep understanding of “what good looks like” and how to build high performing teams that deliver what’s required.

Most importantly, they can apply different influencing strategies across dissimilar stakeholder groups; a core skill for any aspiring CEO or medical director. 

CEOs from clinical backgrounds who have progressed through the ranks tell us that one of the most challenging aspects to being successful is handling complexity and ambiguity. Finding clinical, operational and workforce strategies that meet national and regulatory performance standards, while operating in an underfunded health economy, where demand exceeds resource and partnership is still “work in progress”, is both complicated and complex. 

Being a CEO is lonely but those who are effective have built solid relationships they can call on for support, they have the intellect and interpersonal skills to respond to a complex array of stakeholders and most importantly, offer inspiring leadership because they are not afraid of their giant within and doing what’s right for patients. 

Simon Potts is director of healthcare at Veredus