Leaders in radiology face their fair share of challenges

Providing high-quality leadership is crucial in radiology, but it can also be challenging, according to a new article published in the Journal of the Journal of the American College of Radiology. What can radiologists do to grow in the face of these challenges and become better leaders? 

“For radiologists, leadership may seem irrelevant or, even worse, an onerous addition to their busy careers," wrote authors Frank J. Lexa, MD, MBA, of the University of Arizona, and David P. Fessell, MD, of the University of Michigan. "It is important that radiologists understand the relevance and importance of good leadership for the success of departments and groups."

These are some of the challenges radiology leaders face: 

Personal Resistance

Lexa and Fessell noted that many radiologists are skeptical of taking up leadership positions due to a perception that leadership conflicts with the tasks associated with medical or academic goals.

“Someone needs to lead,” the researchers noted. “Someone needs to make sure that we are doing proper strategic planning, that we are financially solvent, that we can work well together, and also do all of the other work that good leadership requires.”

Efforts cannot be focused only in the reading room, they added. Radiologists should also be concerned with the success of the department or group as a whole. 

Time, Effort and Cost

Radiologists who choose to obtain positions within leadership may pursue MBA programs; however, those are time consuming and expensive. Importantly, radiologists need specialized training that focuses on diagnostic imaging. 

To combat this, the American College of Radiology developed the Radiology Leadership Institute (RLI)," the authors noted.

“We teach leadership skills in the RLI because we believe that radiologists will be better led by one of their own than by a non-radiologist,” Lexa and Fessell wrote.

Transition and Perfection

Changing focus from individual career success to organizational success may be hard for some radiologists. “For many of us, this is first a shift from the narrow world of the individual to the management and leadership of a group,” the authors wrote.

Additionally, the traits, goals and activities required to build individual success are not the same for building teams and mentoring others for success.

And as radiologists come from a “culture of perfection,” where “never miss this” is the operative phrase and one that radiologists live by, leaders live in a different type of world “with many shades of gray."

The best way for a radiologist to get started down the path of picking up new leadership skills is to learn by doing, the authors wrote.

“In our discussions with leaders who are radiologists and leaders who are not, a consistent theme is that leadership is a lifelong journey,” Lexa and Fessell wrote. “In an analogy to continuing medical education, leaders have personal goals for their leadership development and work consistently to keep up their skills and acquire new ones as needed. The time to begin the journey is today.”