All clinicians take on leadership responsibilities when delivering care. Evidence suggests that effective clinical leadership yields superior clinical outcomes. However, few residency programs systematically teach all residents how to lead, and many clinicians are inadequately prepared to meet their day-to-day clinical leadership responsibilities. The purpose of this article is twofold: first, to make the case for the need to refocus residency education around the development of outstanding “frontline” clinical leaders and, second, to provide an evidence-based framework for designing formal leadership development programs for residents.
The authors first present a definition of clinical leadership and highlight evidence that effective frontline clinical leadership improves both clinical outcomes and satisfaction for patients and providers. The authors then discuss the health care “leadership gap” and describe barriers to implementing leadership development training in health care. Next, they present evidence that leaders are not just “born” but, rather, can be “made,” and offer a set of best practices to facilitate the design of leadership development programs. Finally, the authors suggest approaches to mitigating barriers to implementing leadership development programs and highlight the major reasons why health care delivery organizations, residency programs, and national accreditation bodies must make comprehensive leadership education an explicit goal of residency training.