Tips to Climb the Ladder

Part 1: From Clinician to Leader: Tips to Climb the Ladder


President and Co-Founder, Carson|Kolb Elite Executive Search


The ol’ catch 22 of ‘how to get experience when you don’t have experience’ is as alive today as ever

As we conduct physician leadership searches for c-suite and other leadership roles in healthcare and life sciences companies of all types and sizes, physicians looking to make the change from clinician to administrative leader inquire with us all the time, “What is the best route for a physician to take from strictly clinical to business physician leader?

Armed with curiosity to find the best answers to this question, we reached out, anecdotally, to c-level physician executives in roles including CMO, CMIO, CIO and CSO. They offered a wealth of great advice. We split the wise counsel offered into a series. This first series offers the encouragement to seek advancement.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. Walk into open doors and don’t be hesitant—you can always return to clinical practice.

2. Get a “real” MBA—not a master’s largely focused on healthcare. You must understand business.

3. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed. If it’s your desire, let them know.

4. These (physician leadership) positions transpire in increments—work your way up; show them you can serve a greater role.

5. You must be willing to invest in yourself—invest in training—Pedigree matters. Don’t waste money on a non-pedigreed MBA.

6. Experience is important. Experience trumps education.

7. It’s tough to be a fulltime clinician and dabble in administration, so you must have a dedication to want to create change.

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