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Health (London). 2013 Jul;17(4):358-74. doi: 10.1177/1363459312460704. Epub 2012 Oct 11.

Leading from the middle: Constrained realities of clinical leadership in healthcare organizations.

Author information

1
Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, UK. graham.martin@le.ac.uk

Abstract

In many developed-world countries, there have been efforts to increase the 'leadership capacity' of healthcare professionals, particularly lower-status staff without formal managerial power. Creating frontline 'leaders' is seen as a means of improving the quality of healthcare, but such efforts face considerable challenges in practice. This article reports on a qualitative, interview-based study of 23 staff in two UK operating theatre departments, mostly nurses by professional background, who were given formal leadership responsibilities by their hospitals and redesignated as 'team leaders' and 'theatre co-ordinators'. While participants were familiar with leadership theory and could offer clear accounts of good leadership in practice, they were often limited in their ability to enact their leadership roles. Professional and managerial hierarchies constrained participants' leadership capacity, and consequently the exercise of leadership rested on alignment with managerial relationships and mandates. The findings highlight difficulties with accounts of leadership as something to be distributed across organizations; in healthcare organizations, established institutional structures and norms render this approach problematic. Rather, if fostering leadership capacity is to have the transformational effect that policymakers desire, it may need to be accompanied by other, wider changes that attend to institutional, organizational and professional context.

KEYWORDS:

Health policy; organization of health services; profession and professionalization

PMID:
23060359
DOI:
10.1177/1363459312460704
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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