We have recently been discussing with some of our colleagues in a number of teams the type of leadership we need in order to nurture an improvement culture in our organisation.
There’s plenty of evidence – both from academic research and anecdotally from within ASPH – that leadership is the most influential factor in shaping organisational culture. So if we are wanting to embed a culture which fosters quality improvement, clearly leadership matters.
Quality improvement (QI) approaches are used in many different industries and comparisons are often drawn with manufacturing and engineering (Toyota, Ford, etc). But more recent intelligence points to fundamental differences between these sorts of industries and our own. We need to take this into account when it comes to leadership.
In healthcare we are dealing not with products, but with people – this means dealing with complexity and uncertainty and volatility every day. So having leaders who can understand, tap-into and contain all of these things is really important.
Healthcare also brings together a wide range of knowledge and experience from different professions – it is built on interdependencies. Having leaders who can connect with people and can role-model and facilitate connecting with other people is really important too.
Also, psychological safety is an essential foundation of QI and this is particularly important in healthcare where the stakes are elevated. So leaders who can create a climate of trust and security for their teams are critical.
Here Dympna Cunnane (for the Health Foundation) describes why leadership is so important in creating a culture of improvement and why leadership in healthcare requires different approaches to other industries: (click here if the video doesn’t load)
We think that leadership matters and we would be really interested to know what you think.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Rebecca – @Rebecca3005