Thought Leader Qualities Every Doctor Needs to Use

animation of person thinking many thoughts Almost by definition, doctors are leaders. And successful doctors are also thought leaders.

We are fortunate in our work with hospitals and medical practices to know many leaders, thought leaders and influential thought leaders among the ranks of professionals. More than a few in this group are good clients. And, I’m pleased to say, many also good friends.

It might be surprising to know that exercising thought leadership skills is an important dynamic of marketing, reputation management and business development.

Thus, it’s not surprising to find that the most successful medical practices have thought leaders at the helm. These individuals are respected by their professional colleagues and sought-after by prospective patients. Growth, achievement and success in the business of healthcare tend to follow.

Having a strong public presence in thought leadership is increasingly important to doctors as competition intensifies and the need for distinction and differentiation is greater than ever.

It’s common for doctors to be recognized for their expertise within the (relatively closed) ranks of fellow doctors and professional peers. But creating and extending a public persona and presence is equally important in a marketing and business development sense.

Fortunately, doctors have a head start: A thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field, whose expertise is shared, sought after, and often rewarded.

Among the definitions, many agree that part of what thought leadership is about is: The key strategy is to be different from competitors. Being different is grounded in providing customers with unique value that they cannot get from any other competitor. [Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management.]

Distinguishing qualities of though leaders…

Effective thought leadership is a learned and practiced skill. The qualities that distinguish influential thought leaders include:

  • Intelligence, expertise and credibility
  • Observant, curious and passionate about their field
  • Pursue compelling ideas and innovative perspectives
  • Contribute intellectual value and insight
  • Frequently share ideas and engage audiences

Most definitions agree that, among these characteristics, one of most important ingredients involves “sharing” ideas and information. Without a platform of interaction, there is no leadership element. This is how thoughts reach and engage the audience.

Methods of “distribution” can include speeches, public presentations, published articles and the like. But the Internet and social media are the delivery systems that can quickly command and influence a large and interested audience.

It is important to note, however, that “thought leader” is an earned as recognition by others, and not a self-anointed title. It does, however, strongly differentiate you from the competition. And being a thought leader attracts a relevant audience, enhances reputation, and builds a trusted bridge of engagement.

For related reading, see: 10 Leadership Habits of Marketing-Savvy Physicians.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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