The Importance of Leadership Training

April 2, 2020 by

By Ann Kellams, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs, Department of Pediatrics, and Liz Shifflett, Chief Operating Officer, Department of Pediatrics

From Ann:

Q: What is PLAM?
A: PLAM stands for Pediatric Leadership in Academic Medicine Course. It is a case-based, six-session course that was offered for the first time this Spring to Pediatric faculty and led by Drs. Nataro and Kellams and Ms. Liz Shifflett. The cases and reading are taken from the book Learning to Lead in the Academic Medical Center, A Practical Guide, by Houpt et. al. Published in 2015, the text covers topics such as the formal and informal organization, culture, personality traits and interpersonal leadership skills, emotional intelligence, decision-making, negotiation, conflict resolution, and recruitment.

Q: How did this come about?
A: We heard from faculty that they were interested in more leadership training and career development opportunities and were specifically interested in fostering and nurturing the growth of the “leadership pipleline” within the Department of Pediatrics.

The UVA course Leadership in Academic Matters (LAM) only takes a certain number of participants from across grounds each year and is no longer specific to academic medicine. Other medical leadership courses are often expensive and require travel. In addition, Women’s and Children’s is working on communication and culture as part of its strategic work-plan. Training Department leaders and physicians/healthcare providers in the clinical areas makes sense, as leadership skills are essential in team-based healthcare.

Q: Who is PLAM for?
A: PLAM is for anyone who is in (or hopes to someday be in) a leadership role and wants to learn about leadership principles and improve leadership skills.

Q: How can I attend PLAM training?
A: This Spring, we have had more requests to participate than spots available; we plan to repeat the course in the Fall. We’ve had some great discussions about how the participants might handle the case situations, leadership strategies, and important take-home points. At the end, participants who have participated in at least 5 out of the 6 required sessions will receive a certificate, and are invited to attend a breakfast with our first-ever Nancy McDaniel Lecturer on Women in Leadership, Dr. Nan Dunlap, former Dean of the School of Medicine.  Be on the lookout for information about next year’s course in the Fall of 2020!


From Liz:

Q: What is SLAM?
A: SLAM is “staff leadership in academic medicine” and follows the same content as PLAM. The only difference is that each staff leader hosts a session.

Q: Why SLAM:
A: I think that good leadership takes time; it takes time to truly know each person that you lead, to get to know their strengths and weaknesses, and to truly understand the work that they are doing.  You have to find ways to motivate them and instill a sense of vision for their role.

When I came into this department, we had only two administrative leaders for over 120 staff; the staff at that time were primarily being supervised by physician leaders in their division. We find that our staff is most connected at their local level, so while this type of leadership structure fits well with staff feeling a sense of pride over their sub-specialty, it left us with organizational challenges an inconsistencies because the faculty’s time can be fairly limited.

With this, over the past four years, we have expanded our leaders, and we now have nine staff supervisors. But, I want to keep doing more. My goal was to expand the leadership presence, not supervisory presence. And, since I believe that leadership is a skill that you have to work on, just like any other, and that investing in education pays off tenfold, we have created a monthly leadership cohort where we learn and discuss leadership teachings.

After we launched PLAM I thought, “Why not give this same content to our staff leaders?”  Yes, many of the cases involve scenarios that staff leaders may not come into contact with, but I think that being in new situations is the only way to learn.

We have had one session, so far, and the feedback from the leaders has been very positive. Just like in PLAM, we end each session asking each person for their main take-away. Someone said, “be vulnerable” as what they will work to embody and I could not agree more.

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