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Chief Resident Leadership Curriculum: July - October: The Basics

July to October: The Basics

During the first segment of the year, you will become very familiar very quickly with your new responsibilities and roles! The topics and resources outlined in this section will help you to develop basic leadership skills relevant to issues and challenges early in the year. We’ve chosen some of the topics in this section to address specific responsibilities, such as handling scheduling requests and managing conflicts, that you will deal with starting on day 1. Other topics address professional development challenges that you may face on a practical level. 



1.    Discuss how task ownership relates to time management.

2.    Describe the concept of psychological size and identify ways to influence psychological size.

3.    Identify characteristics that make up “good” leaders and how to become an Authentic leader. Discuss how those characteristics relate to the chief resident role.

4.    Describe major leadership styles. Discuss specific scenarios in which each style would be appropriate.

5.    Identify a process for effective negotiation. Practice this process using real-life examples.

6.    Discuss how gender, culture and context can affect communication.

7.    Describe a method of giving feedback. Practice this method using specific examples.


Scheduling - Introduction to Management

Chief residents who oversee scheduling and scheduling requests may often feel overwhelmed with the amount of “busy work” that quickly amasses. You will also be challenged to be equitable and consistent in your decisions around scheduling requests. Discussing scheduling requests presents an opportunity to build managerial skills and to continue discussing the concept of time management and begin discussing the concepts of negotiation, conflict resolution and diplomacy. These skills are multi-faceted and complex and will therefore be revisited throughout the year. During this particular session, we will discuss the concept of task ownership and its relationship to time management. 

Psychological Size

Over the past few months, you might have begun to notice a different relationship with your peers and junior residents. Some chiefs may notice that just as they may have been intimidated by their chief resident or attending when they were junior residents, junior residents may now be intimidated in the same way by them. This can come as a surprise when you still consider yourself a peer to the housestaff.

The concept of psychological size refers to the status relationship between two people. During this session we will discuss the impact of psychological size on others and strategies to adjust one's psychological size depending on the situation.

What Makes a Leader? Introduction to Emotional Intelligence

This session’s discussion focuses on the attributes that define good leaders. In the business literature, emotional intelligence has been cited as one of the most important qualities that a leader should possess. In medicine, emotional intelligence has also been positively correlated with patient-doctor rapport, trust and improved patient outcomes. A starting point in discussing this topic would be Daniel Goleman’s landmark article referenced below from 1998.  Goleman also wrote an update from 2018 about specific techniques we can make use of to boost our EI. You may reflect early in your year about what qualities will help you to lead effectively and how to develop those particular attributes.The TEI-que website provided below contains a validated test of emotional intelligence if the group wants to delve into this in a little more details.

Autheniticity and Leadership Style

You may not be completely comfortable in your leadership role yet, but likely have had some experience as leaders, formally or informally, during residency. This session makes use of those past and present experiences to illustrate differences in leadership style. During this session, we will discuss leadership scenarios that we've experienced as leaders and reflect on what went well and what could have been done better or differently. The group will describe the various leadership styles used in each of the scenarios and discuss how different situations may warrant a specific style. The first reference listed below is Daniel Goleman’s follow-up article to What Makes a Leader (see What Makes a Leader) above. The second reference is an older theory that also discusses how different situations may warrant different leadership styles. Lastly, is an article that addresses the concept of Authenticity in leadership.  It is important to recognize that becoming a leadership does not mean you need compromise your authentic self.

Conflict Resolution Through Principled Negotiation

Chiefs quickly learn that conflict negotiation will become an important part of their everyday life. In doing so, you will also learn that every story has at least two sides and that sides are comprised of issues and positions. Understanding the issues (the reasons) behind why parties establish particular positions in an argument can help get to the root of the problem and thereby to a potential solution. This type of negotiation is termed principled negotiation and is discussed further in "Getting to Yes".  Also, the concept of working with others who you may not like comes up many times in our careers.  The two Harvard Business Reviews articles below begin to touch about ways to tackle these difficult relationships.

Communication: Considering Culture and Context

During the year, you will rely on your communication skills on a daily basis in all of responsibilities whether it be teaching, resolving conflicts, mentoring a resident, or participating in a meeting. An understanding of the culture and context of why people communicate in different ways can help you to understand communication styles better and can help you engage others more easily. It is key to recognize that the learning skills to become a more effective communicator allows for us to build strong relationships with those around us. This communication discussion focuses on gender, culture and context; a subsequent discussion will focus on individual communication styles and methods of adapting one’s style (see Communication Styles in the next segment of the curriculum). 


As chief, you are responsible for a number of educational, clinical and administrative responsibilities: all of which require you to give feedback. Educationally, your are facilitating morning report, leading morbidity and mortality conferences and teaching residents and medical students. Clinically, you may be a ward or clinic preceptor for a resident team or may lead a team of clinical staff in an outpatient setting. Administratively, your will need to deal with unprofessional behavior and day-to-day resident issues. In all of these scenarios, knowing how to give both positive and negative feedback is crucial. We will be discussing feedback from a managerial perspective

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