You Can and Should Be a Leader – Even if You Aren't a Natural


With a few basic skills, you can expand your influence and make your organization a better place to work.

Fam Pract Manag. 2017 Nov-Dec;24(6):5.

Physicians are by design expected to be leaders. On the most basic level, a family physician leads the delivery of care in a medical assistant-physician team. On a more complex level, a family physician may run a large health care organization. Often, the larger the organization we find ourselves in, the less we may feel like leaders and the more we may feel like worker bees.

In this issue, we present an article by John P. Franko, MD, titled “How to Lead Up in Your Organization,” which describes how employed physicians in particular can enhance their leadership skills so their voices can be heard. However, the article is a worthwhile read for everyone because its lessons are broadly applicable.

A key insight is that leadership is teachable. Although some folks may be “natural born leaders,” the rest of us can improve our leadership skills if we focus on the right things and practice them. Franko lists seven areas to work on: cultivating emotional intelligence, understanding the power and politics at play, choosing being effective over being right, becoming more intentional, helping your supervisor, disagreeing without being disagreeable, and not expecting credit all the time.

Of these areas, emotional intelligence is probably the most important. Franko doesn't go into lengthy detail about it, but he offers some background and tips and references Emotional Intelligence 2.0.1 This book is an easy read and essentially a self-help resource for increasing your emotional intelligence. It outlines four critical skills – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management – and provides numerous strategies in each area to improve your competence. (Look for an article on emotional intelligence in the January/February issue of FPM.)

Why should you improve your leadership skills? First, it can prevent you from feeling powerless in your organization. Second, it can help you make a positive contribution to how your organization is run. Third, it can help you counteract bad leadership where it exists.


1. Bradberry T, Greaves J. Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego: TalentSmart; 2009.


Copyright © 2017 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


Jan-Feb 2021

Access the latest issue
of FPM journal

Read the Issue

FPM E-Newsletter

Sign up to receive FPM's free, weekly e-newsletter, "Quick Tips & Insights."

Sign Up Now


Tobacco Cessation Telehealth Guide

Smoking cessation counseling and pharmacotherapy options are cost-effective ways to help patients quit smoking. Learn the role telehealth can play in your practice’s efforts, along with billing, coding, and documentation tips.

Understanding and Improving Risk Adjustment in Team-Based Care

Understand the basics of risk adjustment and how it is used in value-based payment (VBP) arrangements. Learn strategies to thrive in VBP and risk-adjustment models to optimize payment while providing high-quality patient care.

Incorporating Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Into Practice

Incorporating alcohol screening and brief intervention benefits your patients and family medicine practice. Follow these steps to reduce risky alcohol use by choosing a screening test, establishing a practice workflow, and appropriately coding and billing.