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ATD Blog

Building Business Acumen and Leadership Capabilities

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Cigna physicians are vital to global health and one of the most crucial employee groups to our long-term business strategy; however, many physicians lack the business acumen, agility, and leadership capabilities needed in today’s volatile healthcare environment.

At Cigna, we tackled this issue. During our quarterly strategic talent planning sessions, the teams identified clear outcomes needed to develop business leadership competencies among our senior physicians. These outcomes include physicians:

  • Contributing as business partners and leaders
  • Developing cross-organizational networks and relationships
  • Demonstrating how to lead with vision and purpose, developing a strategic mindset, developing teams, and leading others
  • Developing executive presence to influence customers, clients, brokers, and partners to align health and well-being goals against strategic imperatives

These talent planning sessions resulted in the creation of the Physician Leadership Development Program (PLDP), which thus far has 60 graduates and a 52 percent promotion rate of that group. In 2015, this program received an Excellence Practice Award from ATD, and last year it was featured in TD magazine.

PLDP is a rigorous learning 16-month learning journey that exposes physicians to self-development through various leadership assessments. Participants complete a team-based enterprise project, demonstrating leadership through an external stretch assignment and flipping the classroom to gain enterprise knowledge. Networking opportunities abound. Alumni mentors are an integral part of the program.


Our physician leaders have forged many partnerships and alliances within and outside of our organization, leading to greater efficiencies, improved working environments, and optimized patient care.


These leaders have gained experiences that better enable them to meet the business challenges of today’s healthcare environment. Completing this program has given them a competitive edge, increased their loyalty to our organization, strengthened our brand and visibility as a global healthcare service provider, and reinforced their ability to deliver our core values and our mission to improve the health, well-being, and peace of mind to those we service.

Want to learn more? Attend our session at ATD 2021 International Conference & EXPO at 10:30 a.m. on September 1. Learn how you can implement a physician leadership program that contributes to your business goals. We will cover the program design, implementation, and evaluation strategy. Lessons learned will be shared and the steps taken to continually build quality improvements into the program that drive results.

About the Author

Paula Kennedy, CPTD, CHRS, MHP, ACB, is a senior advisor in leadership development at Cigna. For nearly 35 years, she has executed highly complex talent management solutions and lead physician and sales learning experiences in the healthcare industry.

She is the program director and master facilitator for Cigna's Physician Leadership Development Program, a 20-month robust learning journey for Cigna’s medical directors. She also is an advisory board member for Cigna's Market President Leadership Development Program.

Kennedy’s work experience includes talent management roles at Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, and Healthsource Inc. She began as a sales executive for Matthew Thornton Health Plan in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Kennedy has an MA in training and development from the University of Maryland and a BS in speech communication from Ithaca College.

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