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Expanding the Scope of Leadership Training in Medicine

Gabel, Stewart MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000236

All physicians take a leadership role at some point in their career—some exert influence in their practices and communities as informal leaders, and others hold formal leadership roles to which they are appointed or elected. These formal leadership roles convey power to those individuals who hold such positions. Formal leadership, however, is limited in its influence unless it is accompanied by a series of personal and interpersonal competencies that characterize both formal and informal leaders.

Many physicians who do not hold formal leadership roles will be called on to provide (or will wish to provide) informal leadership at various times in their careers. Both formal and informal leaders should be trained in the personal and interpersonal competencies necessary for effective leadership to advance the principles-driven and values-oriented goals inherent in the health care enterprise.

In this article, the author defines leadership and describes the characteristics of formal and informal leaders, then discusses the types of leadership and the power derived from different leadership roles. He concludes by arguing in favor of expanding the scope of leadership training to include informal as well as formal leaders.

Dr. Gabel is professor of psychiatry, University of Colorado Medical School, Aurora, Colorado, and teaching professor of psychiatry, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Gabel, 1776 S. Jackson St., Denver, CO 80210; telephone: (303) 669-8447; e-mail:

© 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges