David Nicholson said this week that within the next three to five years he wanted at least one clinician considered for each chief executive post.
Speaking at a King's Fund conference on clinician-led change, he said: 'We need to change the way NHS leadership looks and feels.'
This would involve doctors studying for business degrees and management trainees learning more about clinicians' work, he said.
Improving the calibre of chief executives would help reduce their high turnover, Mr Nicholson added.
'We find it very difficult to recruit people who want to be chief executives - the average time they spend in post is just 700 days.'
Clinicians would boost the supply pool and add medical expertise to the role, he said.
Programmes are being drawn up by strategic health authorities to identify clinicians who could fill senior management roles.
University College London Hospitals foundation trust chief executive Robert Naylor supported the drive for more clinical leaders.
'I don't understand why we don't mine the medical profession for leaders or use the enormous talents there are,' he said.