Leadership for the systemization of health care: the unaddressed issue in health care reform

Pieter Degeling (Centre for Clinical Management Development, University of Durham, Stockton‐on‐tees, UK)
Adrian Carr (School of Applied Social and Human Sciences, University of Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Publication date: 1 December 2004


The case literature strongly suggests that both in England and in Australia health care reforms have had very little impact in terms of “improved performance”. It is in the context of a perceived failure in the implementation of the reforms that an interest has arisen in leadership at the level of individual clinical units (e.g. an orthopaedics unit or birth unit), as the possible “fix” for bridging the promise‐performance gap. Drawing upon extensive case studies that highlight the problem and context for appropriate forms of leadership, this paper argues that the appropriate discourse, in terms of leadership in health reform, needs to focus upon the issue of authorization. In making this argument, addresses the current conceptions of leadership that have been advanced in the discourse before offering some case study material that is suggestive of why attention should be focused on the issue of authorization. Illustrates how and why the processes of leading, central to implementing reform, cannot be construed as socially disembodied processes. Rather, leading and following are partial and partisan processes whose potential is circumscribed by participants' position‐takings and what is authorized in the institutional settings in which they are located. Argues that the “following” that clinical unit managers could command was shaped by the sub‐cultures and “regulatory ideals” with which staff of each profession are involved. In the interests of reform, policy players in health should not be focusing attention solely upon the performative qualities and potential leadership abilities of middle level management, but also on their own performance. They should consider how their actions affect what is authorized institutionally and which sets the scope and limits of the leadership‐followership dialectic in clinical settings.



Degeling, P. and Carr, A. (2004), "Leadership for the systemization of health care: the unaddressed issue in health care reform", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 18 No. 6, pp. 399-414. https://doi.org/10.1108/14777260410569975

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