Despite numerous calls for an increase in physician leaders and leadership development in medical education, a 2018 systematic review found significant gaps exist in (1) understanding the best ways to teach leadership, (2) assessing and understanding the value of leadership training, and (3) overall reporting of curricula design. Participants in the August #HMIchat explored myths of leadership and leadership development, shared crucial advice, passed on resources, and discussed innovative ways to teach and develop leadership skills both in and beyond medical education. The chat was rich with ideas and resources to help us become better leaders.

 Here is a recap of some of the common themes and ideas shared by our community.

What are some common myths about leadership?

  • Leaders cannot show vulnerability; they must have all the answers… be the smartest in the room (@joshuadhartzell)
  • Everyone has the same access to leadership opportunities. Reality: There remains incredible bias and sponsorship is one way to work to create equity in leadership (@SusanHingle)
  • You have to be an extrovert to be a leader (@KFabsMD)
  • Leaders can only lead after they have “done their time” (@DrJRMarcelin)

As we discussed these myths, @Javeedsukhera remarked how “many myths related to leadership perpetuate gender and racial biases...make us question our leadership skills and competencies because we don’t ‘look’ like leaders.” In busting these myths, the #HMIchat turned to the critical value of personal mentors, coaches and sponsors in developing leaders, especially for women and minorities.

What are some common myths about teaching leadership:  

  • A myth about leadership is that lecture alone can foster leadership skills…. modeling, coaching, and low-stakes practice are, in my experience, crucial to developing leadership skills (@KomalBajajMD)
  • Many students think that you should focus on learning and developing leadership skills only when you are in advanced stages of your career (@melissa_camposz)
  • A leadership myth I had to unlearn was that leadership comes from being in leadership positions rather than being a set of skills/mindsets/qualities relevant to and accessible to anyone who wants to make change regardless of formal role (@MBernsonLeung

What is the most important piece of leadership advice you have ever received?

  • Leadership is about influencing others, and you can be more influential by fostering trust and respect in relationships (@davidgsmithphd
  • Be flexible about adapting your leadership style to your audience, while maintaining authenticity, and you will be successful (@DrJRMarcelin)
  • Leadership is built upon trust, shared goals, caring, and helping others (@tylerblack32)
  • Failing is ok. Admitting failure is vital. Be authentic and vulnerable (@OrthopodReg)
  • Extrapolated from a famous quote but at the end of the day it’s not what you said or how much you know but how you make your team feel that makes you an effective leader in their minds. Grabbing coffees, ensuring your learners take lunch breaks, can make a huge difference (@carlie_cerne)
  • Spend the first few months having a lot of meetings and getting to know people (@usnehal).
  • Leadership is not a title - it's a skill set you have to work on regularly and occasionally fail at (@KomalBajajMD)

What are some favorite leadership resources for health professions education?

  • Coaches, mentors, and sponsors!
  • Websites and research articles!

Ancona, Backman, and Isaacs, 2019

Evje, 2019

Goleman, 2019

Hingle, 2018

Meyerson, 2001

Rosenkrantz et al, 2019

Terrasi et al., 2019

Zhang et al., 2018

  • Books!

The New One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

Quiet – Susan Cain

Good to Great – Jim Collins

Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy – Amy C Edmondson

Range – David Epstein

Discover Your True North – Bill George

Act Like a Leader, Think Like A Leader – Herminia Ibarra

Eleven Rings – Phil Jackson

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations – James Kouzes and Barry Posner

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick M. Lencioni

Turn the Ship Around! – L. David Marquet

Start with Why – Simon Sinek

Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Multipliers – Liz Wiseman

Wooden on Leadership – John Wooden


 12 Podcasts That Will Make You a Better Leader

Explore the Space Podcast

Growth Edge: A Leadership Podcast

The Learning Leader Show

When putting together all the myths and advice it becomes somewhat obvious that there is so much to learn about leadership.  This in some ways might seem daunting, but in reality it should give us all a sense of peace. Much like in medicine, the study of leadership never ends. Very quickly during the chat people busted the myth about “leaders being born” and that leadership should only be taught and considered later in one’s career. Leadership skills are life skills and learning these earlier will allow for more effective leadership at earlier stage in your career.

The other part that really struck us was the relative simplicity of many of the pieces of advice that were given. When you look at the list most of us can start doing these things right away.  We all have the ability to give our time and invest in others. We can demonstrate caring through our words and more importantly our actions. This is not about feigning to care, but really caring about the mission and those you work with. What would this look like for you with your coworkers and those above and below you? We have the ability to ‘multiply’ and not ‘diminish.” What would our work spaces look like if we all did these behaviors on a routine basis? Moreover, these actions will build your reputation and influence as leader so that when the time comes you will have people ready to support you. Being an effective follower is one of the first steps to being an effective leader.

To close, we think this quote by summarizes much of the discussion about leadership development:

You never become a leader, you are always becoming a leader.”

Chip Souba

Leaders are learners! We hope that the chat and resources listed above serve as a both an impetus and guide for your ongoing leadership development. The world needs leaders and that includes each and every one of you reading this blog post! 

Did you know that the Harvard Macy Institute Community Blog has had more than 190 posts? Previous blog posts have explored topics including sanokondu, bridging leaders, and we are all leaders, what are you waiting for?


Author BIO's

Kim Fabyan, MD is the current Chief of Medical Residents for the National Capital Consortium Internal Medicine Residency Program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Kim’s professional interests include graduate medical education, wellness, and active learning. She can be followed on Twitter or reached via email.


Amy Fleming, MD, MS-HPEd, FAAP (Educators ’10, Leaders ’11, Assessment ‘13, Tech ‘13) is Associate Dean for Medical Student Affairs at Vanderbilt University, and Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Education and Administration. Amy’s professional interests include educational leadership and developing medical professionals, educators, and leaders. She can be followed on Twitter or reached via email.  


Josh Hartzell, MD, MS-HPEd, FACP, FIDSA (Educators ’15, Leaders ’15, Assessment ‘16) is a United States Army Lieutenant Colonel and currently serves as the Program Director for the National Capital Consortium Internal Medicine Residency Program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He is dedicated to developing others’ careers and creating leaders to solve problems related to health care delivery and education. He can be followed on Twitter or reached via email.




The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy of the Uniformed Services University, Department of Army/Navy/Air Force, Department of Defense, or U.S. Government.




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