Your Career: Frustrated MD Seeks True Leadership Opportunity

Physician told to take on extra responsibilities, but it never evolves into anything formal – or additional compensation.

Q I’m a physician working in a midsize urban hospital. I’ve served in informal leadership roles here, but I can’t seem to acquire formal leadership positions. I’m told I need to network more or take on more responsibilities, but when I do, it never evolves into something more formal. I feel like I’m taking on extra work without compensation or adequate recognition. What am I missing?

A I wondered about three things in your question: mission, value and relationships. First, are you aligning yourself with the organization’s mission as stated (or even unstated)? Sometimes, we see things to change that are not quite in alignment with the organization's readiness for it.


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If this might be the case, dig into what the initiatives of the C-suite really are. Perhaps write about it for the employee newsletter, with a twist — tell a member of the C-suite you want to do an article on this for employees’ benefit and you'd like to interview him or her for this purpose. This gets you in front of an organizational leader.

Second, what value are they interpreting from you? Be careful about mentioning compensation — don't expect it unless and until you have shown, demonstrated and sustained value from their perspective. If there is even a hint of self-interest or expectation, you can run afoul of those in leadership. .

Third, relationships are the best way to engage, but you have to do so without obvious self-interest or manipulation. Pick a mentor in, or closely related to, the organization — perhaps a nonphysician, maybe even someone of the other gender. Ask to keep the relationship confidential, and use it to engage your thinking about your situation. A high-ranking mentor is not always the best one. Investigate opportunities for leadership in terms of a job change or working with your local and national specialty association. Also, learn more about the organization’s needs from an HR perspective. .

Do they have openings for a specific leadership role? Is the place growing? Is it a place you really want to spend the next 10-15 years? Might somewhere else be better? Make sure you’re not just a member of a committee, but that you make an impact on it. .

Showing up is not enough. But it is possible that another place is beckoning if only they knew you. Don't beat your head against a wall ... look for a door. 

Kevin E. O’Conner, a certified speaking professional, is an executive coach who specializes in working with medical and other technical professionals who have been promoted to leadership positions.

Topics: Career Planning Journal

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