How to be a physician leaderpreneur

The gimmick of the day is to make -preneur the suffix of the year. Solopreneurs. Doctorpreneurs. Digipreneurs. Trumpreneurs. It should come as no surprise then, that leaderpreneur has appeared in your latest Google search. 

What is a leaderpreneur, anyway, and why should anyone care? Recognizing that there are as many definitions of leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation as there are practitioners of those arts, here's my take:

Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity with scare resources with the goal of creating user defined value through the deployment of innovation.

Leadership is about creating social influence by communicating vision, direction and inspiration

Leaderpreneurs create the future by leading entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs. Unlike managers. they lead and develop innovators, they don't manage innovation.

Innovators are people who create something that is new or use something old in a new way that creates significant user defined multiples of value compared to the status quo of the competition.

Managers are tasked with optimizing efficiency and efficacy with existing resources.

Knowledge technicians, like most doctors, solve problems using cognitive, motor and communication skills. For the most part, they are a dying breed and most likely to be supplemented or replaced with AI or robots.

Creating and harvesting clinical value means moving from being a knowledge technician to being a leaderpreneur. So, if you are a knowledge technician or physician entrepreneur moving up the ladder, what skills, knowledge, abilities and competencies will you need to apply to be effective?

  1. Creative wicked problem solving
  2. Communications
  3. Collaboration
  4. Aligning and communicating strategic objectives with innovation initiatives
  5. Creating a culture of innovation in your organization
  6. Applying new ways to measure innovation
  7. Three horizon thinking, planning and execution
  8. Ecosystem building
  9. Innovator, not, innovation, leadership
  10. Master social media and marketing

The pathway to leaderpreneurship looks something like this:

  1. Knowledge technicians practicing state of the art medicine with an understanding of potential innovation opportunities
  2. Management knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies that help them maximize the now. Here are 5 strategies that might help.
  3. Identifying those managers with an entrepreneurial mindset and helping them cultivate it and move from the now to the next.
  4. Giving physician entrepreneurs what they need to get their ideas to patients and move from the next to the new.
  5. Providing leadership development to physician entrepreneurs to create a learning organization and navigating the clinical value roadmap

Here is a different competency framework. Finding these people will be a challenge:

1. Technical expertise is hard enough to maintain without administrative responsibilities

2. Emotional intelligence describes several domains along a spectrum and almost no one has exceptional competence in all

3. Infuencing describes leadership. Who is the one person who leads American medicine? 

4. Delivering means closing the strategy-execution gap. Doing so has as much to do with external rules and regulations which are unlikely to be within your control 

5. Working in partnership means overcoming vested turf wars which only seem to be intensifying with credential creep and evolving business models

6. Values: Why is it so hard to do the right thing?

7. Strategic thinking. When did they teach you in medical school how to see around corners?

8. Creativity and innovation. Welcome to innovation theater 

9. Organizational development : when would you like to do that? Before everyone is cooked but not done or after more are burned out?

10. Are we really just looking for a new mythical triple threat



One author notes, "Most of our conversations on innovation in large companies center around how to get more innovation happening within the organization. In our haste to create new products, services and business models, we have neglected another major challenge that large companies face. In his new book The Startup Way, Eric Ries calls this the problem of success. Beyond the struggle of coming up with great new ideas, most innovators are frustrated because their companies don’t know what do with the ideas that succeed."

Sick care organizations need to move their employees from the now to the next to the new. Converting physician, or other healthcare professional , knowledge technician prospects to leads to leaderpreneurs will deliver few at the bottom of the funnel, but those few can have a disproportionate impact.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs