Academic health centers (AHCs) are under unprecedented pressure, making strong leadership during these challenging times critical. Department chairs have tremendous influence in their AHCs, yet data indicate that-despite outstanding academic credentials-they are often underprepared to take on these important leadership roles. The authors sought to improve the approach to recruiting, developing, and giving feedback to department chairs at their institution, the Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM), by reorganizing these processes around six key leadership competencies: leadership and team development, performance and talent management, vision and strategic planning, emotional intelligence, communication skills, and commitment to the tripartite mission. Over a two-year period (2009-2011), IUSM faculty and administrators developed standardized recruitment procedures to assess potential chairs based on the six leadership domains, and searches are now streamlined through centralized staff support in the dean's office. Additionally, IUSM offers a chair development series to support learning around these leadership competencies and to meet the stated professional development needs of the chairs. Finally, chairs receive structured feedback regarding their leadership (among other considerations) through two different assessment instruments, IUSM's Department Chair 360° Leadership Survey and IUSM's Faculty Vitality Survey-both of which the dean reviews annually. Strategically attending to the way that chairs are selected, developed, and given feedback has tremendous potential to increase the success of chairs and, in turn, to constructively shape the culture of AHCs.
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