Leadership by design: intentional organization development of physician leaders

Stephen Swensen, Grace Gorringe, John Caviness, Dawn Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is: first, to present a qualitative descriptive case study of the Mayo Clinic leadership and organization development philosophy and approach; second, to summarize a strategy for using intentional organization design as a foundation for culturally aligned physician leadership development and third, to describe the Mayo Clinic Leadership Model. Design/methodology/approach – This manuscript is a qualitative descriptive case study of the Mayo Clinic leadership development philosophy and approach. The authors reviewed the organization design and leadership development programs of a leading healthcare institution. In the systematic appraisal, the authors sought to understand the key features and elements of team-based leadership development and the supporting organizational characteristics that guide development with the use of a customized institutional leadership model. Findings – The authors identified four intentional characteristics of the multi-specialty group practice structure and culture that organically facilitate the development of leaders with the qualities required for the mission. The four characteristics are: patient-centered organizational design, collaborative leadership structure, egalitarian leader selection process and team-based development system. The authors conclude that organization culture and design are important foundations of leadership development. Leadership development cannot be separated from the context and culture of organizational design. Mayo Clinic’s organizational and governance systems are designed to develop culturally aligned leaders, build social capital, grow employee engagement, foster collaboration, nurture collegiality and engender trust. Effective organization design aligns the form and functions of the organization with leadership development and its mission. Originality/value – This qualitative descriptive case study presentation and analysis offers a unique perspective on physician leadership and organization development in healthcare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-570
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Management Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 9 2016


  • Leadership
  • Organizational behaviour
  • Organizational citizenship
  • Organizational design
  • Organizational structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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