Strategy for Aspiring Women’s Leaders: ‘Identify and Maximize’ Strengths

By Andy Smith | AAPL
April 30, 2018

During a women’s leadership forum, hospital executive Margaret McKenzie, MD, advises those seeking to move up: “Find your passion” and “separate yourself” from others.

BOSTON  Margaret McKenzie, MD, is president of the Cleveland Clinic’s South Pointe Hospital in Ohio – and she got there following a path that was far more difficult then than it is today for women pursuing executive positions.

Although women represent more than 50 percent of today’s graduating med students, they hold only about 20 percent of the positions in the C-suite today.


Margaret McKenzie, MD, is president of the Cleveland Clinic’s South Pointe Hospital in Ohio. | AAPL

During a women’s leadership forum at the AAPL Physician Leadership Summit in April, McKenzie said her passion is developing physician leaders, and “my strategy is to help women build confidence by helping them to identify and maximize their strengths.”

“It’s a much easier journey [to the C-suite] if you have a toolbox and put yourself in a place for success,” she said.

She said four keys to success include:

Breadth: Develop the widest possible view of the organization.

Context: Must have a knowledge of how the industry makes money and be able to lead a team. Understand how the organization fits into the larger story.

Vision: Must be able to “see around the corner” and be able to look fear in the eye.

Connection: Feedback from others. Success of others.

Dian Ginsberg, a career coach with AAPL, said those pursuing leadership positions can help themselves by developing interpersonal skills and taking psychometric analysis to identify and address “blind spots.”

Our goal,” she said, “is to support you to leverage your skills to be a leader.”

McKenzie said physicians “tend to hang our hats on our clinical practice” but you need to be able to separate yourself to achieve a leadership position – that it’s important to be able to assess your strength and weaknesses. “Find your passion,” she said. “That is the thing you need to start focusing on.”

She emphasized the importance of finding a sponsor and a coach.

“Having a leadership coach is an incredible tool to see yourself in the mirror,” she said. “Find the key people in your organization who are making the decisions and research the promotion process at your organization. Find a sponsor who is on your board or at decision-making table.”

Show that you’re interested in particular leadership positions and ask what you should do to get there, she said. Make a short list of questions (maximum of three) and come with a list of objectives. And instead of a CV, which she said is rarely read, write a one-page executive summary that highlights your skills.

Ginsburg advised that you “make sure your personal values align with that of the organization.”

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