Physician Burnout—Evidence That Leadership Behaviors Make a Difference: A Cross-Sectional Survey of an Academic Medical Center

James S. Hu, Jennifer Phillips, Choo Phei Wee, Louis N. Pangaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: High rates of physician burnout are well documented in the USA. Identifying beneficial leadership behaviors as an organizational approach to mitigating burnout can lead to improved wellness in the physicians that they lead; however, few studies have examined which leadership behaviors are beneficial and which may be detrimental. Materials and Methods: This survey study of academic medical center physicians and their physician leaders assessed the correlation between burnout and leadership behaviors. Data were analyzed for the strength of correlation between scores for leadership behaviors and self-reported physician burnout with analysis of variance by sex, time from training, specialty, and age. Results: Of 1,145 physicians surveyed, 305 returned surveys. Among the respondents, 45% were female, 25% were 56 years or older, and 57% self-identified as practitioners of medicine or medicine subspecialties. Two transformational leadership categories of behaviors (idealized influence behaviors and individualized consideration) and one transactional leadership behavior category (contingent reward) correlated favorably with all domains of burnout (P < .0001). Conversely, two transactional leadership categories of burnout (management by exception passive and laissez-faire) correlated unfavorably with all burnout domains. Conclusions: Organizational interventions are needed to improve burnout in physicians. Adopting favorable leadership behaviors while avoiding unfavorable leadership behaviors can improve burnout in those physicians being led. These findings could inform the conceptual basis of future physician leadership training programs as transactional leadership behaviors also have an impact on physician wellness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1580-E1587
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2023
Externally publishedYes


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