The ecology of program director leadership: power relationships and characteristics of effective program directors

Article: The ecology of program director leadership: power relationships and characteristics of effective program directors

Authors: Bharat Kumar, Melissa L. Swee, & Manish Suneja

Journal: BMC Med Educ. 2019 Nov 21;19(1):436

Abstract:
BACKGROUND: Program directors are often perceived as strong and independent leaders within the academic medical environment. However, they are not as omnipotent as they initially appear. Indeed, PDs are beholden to a variety of different agents, including trainees (current residents, residency applicants, residency alumni), internal influencers (departmental faculty, hospital administration, institutional graduate medical education), and external influencers (the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), medical education community, and society-at-large). Altogether, these agents form a complex ecosystem whose dynamics and relationships shape the effectiveness of program directors.

MAIN BODY: This perspective uses management theory to examine the characteristics of effective PD leadership. We underline the importance of authority, accessibility, adaptability, authenticity, accountability, and autonomy as core features of successful program directors. Additionally, we review how program directors can use the six power bases (legitimacy, referent, informational, expert, reward, and coercive) to achieve positive and constructive change within the complexity of the academic medical ecosystem. Lastly, we describe how local and national institutions can better structure power relationships within the ecosystem so that PD leadership can be most effective.

CONCLUSION: Keen leadership skills are required by program directors to face a variety of challenges within their educational environments. Understanding power structures and relationships may aid program directors to exercise leadership judiciously towards fulfilling the educational missions of their departments.

Link to journal online: https://bmcmededuc.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12909-019-1869-3

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