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AAMC President Calls for New Kind of Leadership in Academic Medicine

San Francisco, Calif., November 4, 2012—Speaking to more than 4,000 attendees at the association’s 123rd annual meeting, AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., called for a new vision of leadership at the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals that multiplies “the intelligence, creativity, and commitment of our faculty, students, residents, and institutional leaders…to create a sustainable future for academic medicine…and resolve the national problems we have been avoiding.” 

Kirch noted that the search process in academic medicine traditionally seeks that “one leader with special knowledge to be the ‘sage at the top,’” just as Clotaire Rapaille, author of The Culture Code, says our nation elects a “Moses” figure to lead as president. 

“I would argue that today we need a new kind of leadership. What we need now is not a Moses, but the kind of leaders called ‘Multipliers,’” Kirch said. 

Citing the book, Multipliers, by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown, Kirch said that “Multipliers are leaders who unleash others’ full potential and empower the broader problem-solving abilities of the entire organization. They invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence.” 

The need to create a more sustainable future for academic medicine “is an urgent national challenge that calls out for the Multiplier approach to leadership,” Kirch said. “With nearly two million exceptionally talented and committed individuals” in the nation’s medical schools and hospitals, “imagine what we could accomplish if more of us began to work as Multipliers. What creativity and innovation could be unleashed? What problems could be solved? Most important, what progress could we make toward improving the health of those we are privileged to serve?” 

“In our hierarchical world of medicine, moving from the Moses to the Multiplier model of leadership could be the game changer,” Kirch said, noting that he sees many signs of Multipliers emerging at all levels in the medical schools and teaching hospitals he visits. 

To support this new vision of leadership, Kirch said the AAMC is expanding its leadership development strategy and programming through more online offerings, campus-based programs that allow academic medical leaders to learn together—focused on their most pressing strategic challenges—as well as more leadership development programming for aspiring leaders. 

“Our guiding belief is that leadership depends less on hierarchical organizational charts and more on building relationships based on shared values and purpose. I think we are finally acknowledging that leadership no longer represents a special gift or power held by a select few. Instead, it is a relationship between committed people. It becomes an opportunity for all of us at any level,” Kirch said. 

The full text of Kirch’s annual meeting address, “From Moses to Multipliers—The New Leaders for Academic Medicine,” can be found at www.aamc.org/presidentsaddress .

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The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association representing all 141 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and nearly 90 academic and scientific societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC represents 128,000 faculty members, 75,000 medical students, and 110,000 resident physicians. Additional information about the AAMC and U.S. medical schools and teaching hospitals is available at www.aamc.org/newsroom