Next Generation of Healthcare Leaders


Christopher Rowe

Managing Director

Korn Ferry

March 8, 2018

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As a father of six children (yes, I did accurately state six, five daughters and one son) with a twenty-one-year age span, I have learned many things. First, is that it can contribute to gray hair and a receding hair line. I’ve also learned that as a parent, you attempt to equip and enable each child with the tools, skills, and experiences they need to be successful in the path they choose. With my children it is equestrian riding, ballet, competitive running, and studies; I see each child has their own individuality, personality, and goals for their paths. Then there are characteristics and attributes that need to be learned and acquired across all of them. Each is very special to me and I count my blessing each day, but with each there are both challenges and victories. I have taken what I have learned from each to ensure I am well prepared to facilitate the learning environment for our four month-old daughter. So far, she is engaged and well beyond her “weeks”. I try to bring that same approach to my work.


Throughout my career I have worked with hundreds of health systems and hospitals on the alignment, engagement, and integration of physicians across various models and initiatives. These range from real estate development, under arrangements, block leases, joint ventures, Service Lines/Centers of Excellence, co-management, medical practice acquisitions, and clinically integrated and accountable care organizations.  While many of these initiatives and furthered physician alignment, many did not achieve the intended outcomes. Sadly, many failed to achieve even partial success. It was not due to the strategy design, but rather the organizations’ ability to execute upon the strategy through its people and across the organization. 


In our latest whitepaper titled Physician Alignment Strategy: 7 levers health organizations can use to resist misalignmentHarry Greenspun, M.D., Christine Rivers, PH.D. and I bring to light the underlying challenges and barriers to successful and sustainable strategy execution. Achieving alignment across the health system, hospitals, physician organizations, and medical staff requires a systematic approach.  Through our 7-lever framework of organization capability and effectiveness, we can begin exploring an organization’s ability to execute a sustainable strategy.    


Leadership is the lever where strategy execution and optimization begin. I am encouraged seeing leading health systems and hospitals investing in the development of their people at increasing rates. Many are developing programs that focus on the executive leaders and high potentials, but more can be done especially within the development of early leaders. However, few resources are being invested to develop the medical staff and informal medical staff leaders. Without engaged physician leaders, little will be accomplished in areas such as value-based care or improving clinical and operational efficiencies and outcomes. While more and more physicians are moving into the executive ranks (a long-overdue transformation I completely support), there is still a void.  


A commonly repeated theme I hear from health care executives is that “we need to do more to develop our informal physician leaders” or “we do not have the physician leader bench strength”. Most health systems have what I call the “core six” physicians that sit on every committee or work group. As health care continues to transform and innovate, informal physician leaders are needed to lead, align, and engage the core medical staff around critical strategic initiatives. 


As an industry, lets continue to engage and develop beyond the “core six” physician leaders, and invest in our collective future by identifying and developing the next 20 or 30 informal physician leaders. Let’s equip and enable these early medical staff leaders with the tools, skillsets, and experiences that are required to lead us into the next era of healthcare transformation and innovation.