Potential challenges facing distributed leadership in health care: Evidence from the UK National Health Service

Graeme Martin, Nic Beech, Robert Macintosh, Stacey Bushfield

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    28 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The discourse of leaderism in health care has been a subject of much academic and practical debate. Recently, distributed leadership (DL) has been adopted as a key strand of policy in the UK National Health Service (NHS). However, there is some confusion over the meaning of DL and uncertainty over its application to clinical and non-clinical staff. This article examines the potential for DL in the NHS by drawing on qualitative data from three co-located health-care organisations that embraced DL as part of their organisational strategy. Recent theorising positions DL as a hybrid model combining focused and dispersed leadership; however, our data raise important challenges for policymakers and senior managers who are implementing such a leadership policy. We show that there are three distinct forms of disconnect and that these pose a significant problem for DL. However, we argue that instead of these disconnects posing a significant problem for the discourse of leaderism, they enable a fantasy of leadership that draws on and supports the discourse.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)14-29
    Number of pages16
    JournalSociology of Health and Illness
    Volume37
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015

    Keywords

    • Distributed leadership
    • Engagement
    • Hybrid leadership

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
    • Health Policy
    • Health(social science)

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