Episode 2 – Physician Leadership: The Myths and the Evidence

In this episode, Patty Fahy, MD, the host of Licensed to Lead describes the myths and evidence about physician leadership and why physicians are uniquely equipped to pick up the reins and lead our medical groups, hospitals, and healthcare systems. 








  2. MYTHS:  Physicians are arrogant, unherdable cats and lone wolves who don’t understand teamwork, business, or finances  
  3. EVIDENCE:  We’ve reviewed the myths—now what’s the EVIDENCE about physicians’ performance in leadership roles? 


Part One— Physician Characteristics 

Here are five leadership traits that ought to get you fired up to see a physician in the corner office of your institution:  

  • Technical expertise 
  • Tacit knowledge 
  • The physician’s ability to learn and to adapt
  • Physicians understand the needs of other people at work 
  • Physicians are trusted by the community and patients 

Part TwoMyths 

Time to bust some of the myths and stereotypes about physicians: 


#1  Doctors are lone wolves or cowboys who can’t get along on a team  

#2  Physicians have a command and control decision-making style  

#3  Physicians are lousy at managing their money 

#4  Docs are greedy and are primarily motivated by money 

#5  Physicians are not suited to lead and not capable of running the business 

Find out why the stereotypes are not only wrong but also are harmful to physicians, staff and patients.  Rampant stereotypes make leadership roles look unappealing to physicians, allow administrators to wave off concerns by physicians, permit apathy about the need for vigilant recruiting and selection, and permit avoidance by administrators of tough behavioral issues. 

 Part Three—The Evidence Please 

Here is the data on physician-led organizations: the striking underrepresentation of physicians in leadership generally and the equally striking overrepresentation of physician leaders at the top performing healthcare institutions.  Find out why being an expert in the core business creates better outcomes. 

One of several findings that is cited is the 2018-19 US News and World Report Best Hospitals Report: of 20 hospitals listed on the Honor Roll of Best Hospitals 70% have physician CEOs.  Notably, only about 6% of hospitals nationwide have physician CEOs.  


  1. Challenge the myths about physicians—they are inaccurate but more importantly they cause harm  
  1. If you know people in positions to influence your next CEO selection—provide your perspective. Or send them links to this podcast.  
  1. If you’re 100% clinician or if you’re a student—consider making leadership development topics ten percent (10%) of your own continuing medical education program.  
  1. Take on a leadership role….run for a position or say yes if one is offered.  

Take a listen to the Licensed to Lead podcast available on all podcast platforms. If this resonates with you or you think that it will be of help or inspiration to someone you know, please share.

Click here for some of our Favorite reads

Physician-leaders and hospital performance: Is there an association? by Amanda Goodall, PhD

 A note from the Licensed to Lead podcast host Patty Fahy, MD: 

Thank you for reading and listening. Visit FahyConsulting.com to learn more about how we work with physicians and other leaders to create healthy work cultures. Also—join future podcast conversations by sending me an email or leaving me a voice message. I would love to hear YOUR voice!