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Health systems across the developed world face a common set of wickedly complex challenges; a rapidly aging population with an associated rise of long term conditions and comorbidity, the need for profound and rapid health system redesign, a relentless drive for increased quality and productivity, and accelerating technological advances, all set against a background of varying degrees of resource constraint. Given this context, health system leadership is no longer an option for clinicians, it is a responsibility. Healthcare isn’t delivered by individuals working in isolation, but by complex systems that cross disciplinary and organisational boundaries. Effective clinicians need to understand those systems, be able to work within, and to continually improve those systems for the benefit of society and those we serve.

But what kind of leadership is required?

Leadership is a process of influence that occurs in a group setting towards the achievement of a common goal. Beyond that there are almost as many definitions or approaches to leadership as there are leaders – an enhance leadership group for example has identified the following as important: self-awareness, strong interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism and fairness, multi-professional team-working and the confidence to question and challenge.

But to summarise, what is currently believed to be needed in a health and care setting is leadership that is compassionate, collaborative and inclusive with a relentless focus on the improvement of the health and wellbeing of patients and populations. At the heart of all of this though is a fundamental prerequisite to know yourself and the impact you have on those around you. So before getting bogged down by a myriad of leadership models, ask yourself; what’s it like being on the receiving end of me?

There’s plenty more on leadership - tools, resources, programmes and development opportunities - available through both the NHS Leadership Academy and the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management.

View the full chapter 

Leadership Resource Guide

The enhance Leadership Resource Guide: First Principles is designed specifically for health and care workers who are early on in their careers and may have very little formal leadership experience. The guide aims to help you identify where you might be able to make changes within your current role, and what skills you already have that you could apply to your ongoing leadership journey. 

Leadership in health and care applies to everyone, and the enhance leadership guide is designed to show all health and care workers how they can begin to lead and influence from the very beginning of their careers.

You can access and download the enhance Leadership Resource Guide: First Principles from our Learning Hub (a free Learning Hub account is needed to access the guide).