Physicians as many other professionals are often promoted into leadership roles based upon their clinical or professional performance. Yet, many do not have the skills or the inclination to lead. In a response to increase the effective influence of professional physician leaders in healthcare organizations, several studies have sought to identify factors that predict effective leadership. However, no exploration has been conducted to understand how physician leaders construe or identify with their leadership roles. In this thesis, I develop a theoretical model that offers an understanding of how a physician leader constructs a leadership identity involving a higher level of participation within their leadership role.
The dissertation employs a sequential mixed methods approach to explore the nature and antecedents of effective physician leadership. The initial inquiry employs a grounded theory approach to understand how physician leaders come to construe themselves as effective leaders. The results of the initial inquiry offer evidence that differences in physician leaders’ effectiveness is partly explained by the social construction of their secondary professional identity. This happens through a process of individual, relational and organizational endorsement of their leadership role.
To garner further insight and clarification of this role identity and endorsement I hypothesize a research model, which posits that professional participation in leadership roles is mediated by aspects of positive psychological climate. A follow up study seeks further clarification for this effect by examining the extent to which a positive psychological climate and role endorsement mediate the relationship between social competencies and physician leaders’ professional participation in leadership. In sum, these three studies offer new insights into how physicians and other professionals understand effective leadership and the factors that lead to commit themselves as an effective leader. These results expand theories of secondary leadership and also have several implications how organizations can support such leadership.