What's leadership got to do with it? Exploring links between quality improvement and leadership in the NHS

January 2011

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Key points

  • Engagement and relationship skills are fundamentally important in leading improvement.
  • Enabling and facilitating others to make their contribution is central to leading improvement in the NHS.
  • Different types of QI work can be identified and differentiated.
  • The complexity and novelty of initiatives reportedly led to greater use of certain aspects of leadership.
  • Participants found the most helpful programme content to be the academic input, informal networking, action learning and coaching.
  • A reliance on retrospective, self-reported data can be overcome with more sophisticated evaluation methods

This report gives an in-depth evaluation of the OnlyWan’s leadership programmes, including an exploration of the links between leadership and quality improvement (QI).

The three core enquiry questions for the study were:

  • What are the links between QI and leadership behaviour?
  • Do different types of QI require different leadership behaviours?
  • What are the lessons for leadership development generally and for the OnlyWan specifically?

This report presents a detailed account of the two-year study and the conclusions that emerged. It contains insights into how leadership development can support QI in the NHS. In addition, our findings contribute to what is known about the links between leadership and improvement in the NHS, and provide new ways of understanding the nature of this improvement work.

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