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Narrative‐ethics informed approach to health services leadership development

Mervyn Conroy (Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, UK)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 17 July 2009



Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present the background and an evaluation of a new health and social care leadership programme. Design/methodology/approach – The paper describes a three‐stage programme design methodology. First, participants were asked to narrate their stories of implementing change at a series of in‐depth interviews. Second, the dialogue was continued with these managers and others based around their stories of change to establish that their meanings of change and their support needs had been understood. Finally, their expressed needs and practical suggestions were analysed with the help of MacIntyre's virtue ethics schema. MacIntyre's schema was used for two reasons. First, because it is based on the notion of a narrative underpinning to social reality and to informing our moral standards, and second because strong resonance between the managers' narratives and the schema's underlying thesis of ethical conflict in modern institutions was found. Findings – The finding was that the programme exceeded expectations by influencing the participants' courage to lead change despite the complexity of their working environment. At the start of the programme many of the participants had reported feelings of powerlessness in face of central and local imperatives for reforms to their services. During the course of the six‐month programme their narratives changed from “mission impossible” to “mission possible”. Research limitations/implications – The main limitation is that this was a pilot study. However, the encouraging findings do support the view offered by Moore and Beadle that MacIntyre's thesis offers rich concepts for the furtherance of managerial and organisation studies and imply that a wider education programme based on this methodology and theorising would be worthwhile. Practical implications – The enthusiasm with which this pilot programme was received implies that public sector leadership education needs to pay more attention to narrative constructions of change, ethical conflict and engaging managers in concert with their constructed needs in the face of those conflicts. Originality/value – The study contributes a design methodology for health services leadership education informed by a narrative research methodology and a virtue ethics theoretical framework.



Conroy, M. (2009), "Narrative‐ethics informed approach to health services leadership development", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 259-272.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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