Practice Notes

Capturing potential with the next generation of physician leaders

Adam Paul

As baby boomer physicians begin to scale down their responsibilities, what can you do to fill the gaps at your organization? Two institutions have implemented strategies to identify potential replacements and train them for future leadership roles.

This is the first in a two-part series on physician leadership succession planning. Look out for our upcoming post on transitioning physician leadership responsibilities as current leaders approach retirement.

Engage CEOs in identifying physician leaders

Most organizations ask individual departments to identify leaders from among their ranks. By contrast, at NorthShore Medical Group, the CEO plays an active role in helping departments identify potential.

The CEO hosts a regular physician discussion forum to which all physician leaders, even those with informal titles, receive an open invitation. These forums provide the CEO an opportunity both to gather feedback from physicians and to identify and elevate new leaders. This tactic has proven effective in helping NorthShore fill leadership vacancies and replace low-performing physician leaders with fresh talent.

NorthShore's CEO forum sources high-potential leaders

Demonstrate support for leaders with dedicated training

Even physicians with the highest potential need support to assume leadership positions effectively.

HealthTexas Physician Network (HTPN) has built one of the best leadership training programs we’ve seen. All rising physician leaders complete a five-month course on quality-improvement and then lead a quality improvement project of their own. When the committee members or practice administrators are ready to join senior leadership, the group invites them to a year-long course focused on management skills.

To encourage widespread participation, HTPN funds a stipend for committee members by imposing a $65 monthly "tax" on all physicians. The stipend allows HTPN to set high standards for participating leaders, and it makes participation more attractive by replacing lost productivity-based pay. As a result, 30% of the group’s physicians now participate in leadership.

HTPN's leadership incentive model fosters participation

  • How does your group identify and support leaders?

    We'd love to hear from you. Share your methods with us by emailing Adam Paul at

Suggested Reading

  • The High Performance Medical Group

    Study | Health Care Advisory Board

    Explore 15 key attributes of organizations that generate strong operational and clinical results by fostering integration among employed physicians and successfully managing physician practices at scale.
  • The Physician Leadership Effectiveness Compendium

    Resource | Physician Executive Council

    Access 16 best practices for promoting physician leadership success in five key areas.

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