The Duke Healthcare Leadership Model

Ethical leadership is a must to the success in any organization. Ethical leaders are required in business, education, sports, foreign services, manufacturing, and healthcare. It can be argued that our current crisis in healthcare costs and availability is a least in part a result of a dearth of leadership in healthcare. Historically and for all the right reasons, medical education is and has been focused on producing the best physicians for clinical practice and operating rooms. There has been a huge void or any deliberate focus on developing leaders. Medical school deans and department chairs can be seen as ‘accidental leaders’ – put in those positions because of their success as clinicians, surgeons, researchers, and grant writers; but not necessarily as effective leaders in the truest sense of the word.

To address this leader development void, in 2009 the Feagin Leadership Program at Duke University was formed. This nine-month program (named after John Feagin Jr., MD, West Point class of 1955) for selected medical school students, residents, and fellows, includes didactic sessions, individual executive coaching, team coaching, and a team project. The team projects focus on current issues and challenges in healthcare. One such project was to develop a leadership development model for a healthcare setting. After a few years of research (both qualitative and quantitative) and refinement, this model[i] was the result:

Two things standout about this model:

1. The five competencies around the circle (Emotional Intelligence, Teamwork, Critical Thinking, Integrity, and Selfless Service) could be in any leadership model, regardless of context.
2. What makes this model unique is what is its focus: Patient Centered.

This model serves a number of purposes, foremost being a graphic of the competencies that leaders should have to be most effective in a healthcare setting. The model also provides a common language for leader development and can be used as a foundation for leader development coaching and curriculum. Or as we’ve said, it’s a start point and better than a blank piece of paper.

To be at their best, teams and organizations need effective ethical leadership. Healthcare organizations are no different. The Duke Healthcare Leadership Model can be a good start point to making leader development a more purposeful and intentional process for future leaders in healthcare.

[i] Hargett, C., Doty., Hauck, J., Cook., S., Neumann, J., Andolsek, K., & Taylor, D. (2017). Developing A Model For Effective Leadership In Healthcare: A Concept Mapping Approach. Journal of Healthcare Leadership 7, 69-78



Joe Doty is the Executive Director of the Dr. John Feagin Leadership Program and Associate Director of the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) curriculum at the Duke University School of Medicine.  He recently returned from three years in Singapore working as a leadership and ethics advisor.  Joe is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, West Point NY, and served in both educational and leadership positions during his 28 years in the Army.

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