Getting the most from all physician leaders

Written by: Mark Hertling
Published on: Aug 17, 2020

During a four-decade career in the Army, I trained for and practiced the art of leadership while commanding at various levels.  It was a rewarding career, filled with interesting people, a variety of cultures, and dynamic challenges.  Then in 2013, after retiring from the Army, I was recruited by a large healthcare system.  One day, the chief medical officer of our hospital asked if I could take on an “additional duty” in helping him train our physicians in the art of leadership. I accepted the challenge, and today the seminars we developed and the classes we designed have become my passion. 

Over the last six years, 700 physicians, nurses and administrators have graduated from our eight-month long development program.  The graduates have begun to take on the mantel of leadership, and we have seen proof of cultural change in our hospital.  We also have conducted research showing how participants have changed in their leadership style and ability, and how that change has affected the organization.

In our classes, interprofessional teams of doctors, nurses, and administrators come together to learn about themselves, discover the dynamics of leadership dyads, and acquire tips for building and influencing teams.  They also begin to understand how they might better contribute to their organization and their profession.  The approach to our seminars consists of the participants learning about themselves, understanding how to influence others, and finding ways to develop teams.

In learning about themselves, leaders must assess their own character and define their personal values.  In discovering the dynamics of dyads, leaders realize there is power in proper and succinct communication.

To build successful teams focused on strategic objectives, leaders must first understand how their ingrained (and polished) personal traits, exhibited behaviors, and application of various influence techniques contribute to their success.

My former colleagues wearing the uniform learn these tricks during required military professional development courses and in the operational environment where they function.  Most soldiers would say my summary of the factors of leadership are simplistic and might even state these building blocks represent a “BFO” (“blinding flash of the obvious”).  They should, because the military receives repeated iterations of these basic leadership approaches and applies them at different levels.  But those who have not studied these attributes, competencies and influence techniques that are associated with successful leadership might find the tools we teach in our seminars useful. 

Leading is hard, but the elements necessary for good leadership can be learned and practiced. Only those who assess, possess and then further develop the attitudes, behaviors, and influence techniques will make great leaders.  And great leaders are needed in healthcare. 





LTG(retired) Hertling served for 38 years in the US Army.  He has a BS from West Point, three Masters degrees, and is a Doctor of Business Administration.  He spent over three years in combat, and his last posting was leading the 60,000 soldiers of US Army, Europe. Since 2013 he has been with AdventHealth, based in Orlando.  He is married to his best friend, Sue, and they have two children and five grandsons.

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