Effective Leadership Traits for Physical Therapists

Effective Leadership Traits for Physical Therapists

As an Owner, Director of Rehabilitation or Physical Therapist, do you ever feel like you spend most of your day fielding questions and solving problems for your practice? Have you ever wondered how you can coach your staff to achieve more personal and professional competencies? Over the past decade I’ve worked with talented physical therapists who truly exemplify what it means to be a leader versus simply managing a practice. Collectively they exhibit common behaviors that help to create a practice where staff members are critical thinkers, passionate employees, and accountable. Three traits that you can incorporate into your skillset to help build leaders within your practice are outlined below: 

1. Ask Questions! Effective leaders can instill independence and problem solving amongst their staff by simply asking, “what do you think you should do?” I had the great privilege of working with Rhode Island APTA President and Private Practice Owner Jason Harvey, MSPT who coined the phase “great leaders don’t put out fires.” As physical therapists in management positions, we often feel compelled to solve problems and stop situations that threaten quality care, reimbursement, and patient satisfaction. However, fighting the urge to quickly solve problems for your staff helps empower them to become critical thinkers and grow as competent professionals. 

2. Support & Motivate Your Staff! Make it a priority to sit down with your physical therapists every year to outline their one, three, and five year goals. Understanding what your staff is passionate about and supporting their future goals will help them establish a plan to achieve success. Furthermore, passionate and motivated employees create an energetic atmosphere that your patients will welcome.

3.  Delegate Tasks! One of the single most important tools to creating an atmosphere of professional development, trust, and accountability is delegation. If you’re spending most of your administrative time writing reports, purchasing equipment, and compiling statistics, then this recommendation is for you! Delegation inspires teamwork, enhances individual skills, demonstrates trust, and streamlines processes and procedures. 

In closing, becoming an effective and influential physical therapist requires leadership skills that can develop through education, reflection, communication, and practice. I’d love to hear some of the traits you’ve observed in great physical therapy leaders! Acknowledge these colleagues and share what makes them influential!

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About The Author: Hollan Oliver, DPT, OCS, SCS is the Director of Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine at Elite Physical Therapy.