The Medical Director is a cornerstone of any healthcare organization's success. However, the qualifications that made someone a good doctor do not automatically qualify the person to be a great leader.

Picking a weak leader can result in morale issues, culture confusion, and high turnover, not to mention the time and expense required to fix what’s broken. A strong Medical Director, on the other hand, will lead the staff toward reaching their goals in a way that is personally satisfying to the participants and instills a sense of achievement in the group. 

There is much to consider in choosing the right person — his or her medical training, board certification, management experience, clinical skills, and more.

Accompanying that is an equally important set of interpersonal characteristics that every hospital recruiting team and selection committee should look for in candidates they interview.

Start with 'Why'

Of all the characteristics to consider, someone who has found his or her “why” and is continually coming back to that as their north star is paramount.

Why is "why" so important?

Famous author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek says that starting with "why" provides a framework upon which successful organizations are built — and that's just as true of hospitals and health systems as any other.

In healthcare physician leadership, a "why" person has a clear understanding of your hospital or health system, can express specific reasons for why they want to work at your organization and is already developing ideas for how to lead effectively if given the role.

Closely Consider these 19 Interpersonal Traits for Medical Leadership

Knowing their why is not the only hire-worthy trait the right candidate will have. There are others that the selection committee should underscore as well, such as the following:

  1. Connectedness. The ideal candidate is connected to the reasons they entered medicine in the first place. They know the strengths that make them the right person for the job and the areas where they need support and training.
  2. Vision. The right person has a big-picture vision and can articulate it compellingly, with passion and verve. They begin with the end in view and know what steps to take to get there.
  3. Hands-on. The ideal person isn't afraid to get their hands dirty to understand better the roles of everyone who would report up to them. They step into other's shoes to learn how they can help cultivate and motivate the workforce, building people up and guiding them to success.
  4. Respect. The ideal candidate has genuine and abiding respect for patients, colleagues, employees, and authority alike.
  5. Kindness. The right person shows concern for everyone they encounter, from the receptionist to CEO.
  6. Communication. Good medical leadership listens well and speaks well — equally important parts of excellent communication.
  7. Integrity. Honesty in their dealings and setting a strong moral tone in the organization is a hallmark trait.
  8. Empathy. A good medical leader not only sympathizes but also empathizes with others, and always assumes the best until proven otherwise.
  9. Compassion. A worthy physician leader cares about the “person behind the scrubs.”
  10. Decisive (but not authoritarian). The leader invites conversation but knows how to convey a firm opinion respectfully.
  11. Teacher-student. Medical Director candidates worth considering are instinctively teachers, but they also recognize that the best teacher is a student. They are always willing to learn from those they supervise.
  12. Servant leader. The leader is a servant first who makes sure that other people's highest priority needs are being met.
  13. Problem solver. Medical leadership worth their salt can solve problems calmly and with composure even under duress and pressure. They know that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
  14. Culture builder. The ideal Medical Director knows how to create a patient-service oriented culture and encourage collaboration between clinical and non-clinical staff through shared objectives.
  15. Creativity cultivator. You want a leader who also establishes a culture where creativity and innovation are cultivated and rewarded.
  16. Facilitator. This person sees various perspectives, approaches problems from many angles, and brings diverse voices into a room to help tackle an issue or capitalize on an opportunity.
  17. Motivator. Find that person who knows how to motivate people into action without sending them into a flurry.
  18. Proactive. You want someone who is agile, dynamic, productive, and organized — but who is human at the same time—not a machine.
  19. Wisdom. Go beyond “smart” and look for someone who is also wise — a person who can handle uncertainty without anxiety. This person knows when to “sleep on it” and wait for the right time to make crucial decisions.


Medical training, experience, and clinical skill notwithstanding — all are necessary traits — perhaps the most essential factor to consider in hospital recruiting when hiring a medical leader is character.

That said, look for someone who knows their why, exhibits concern for others, and will look out for the welfare of their staff—yet is unafraid to make tough decisions when necessary.  

If you are such a person, SCP Health has opportunities for you. Take a look at our job board to find out what Medical Director jobs are available.

If you are a hospital or health system executive who needs hospital recruiting and staffing support for medical leadership and other clinical positions, talk to us. A member of our team will be happy to evaluate your situation and recommend an optimal solution.