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Existential leadership coaching in a medical partnership

Eric David Spencer ( University of Stellenbosch Business School , Cape Town, South Africa)
Ruth Albertyn ( University of Stellenbosch Business School , Cape Town, South Africa)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 19 March 2018

Issue publication date: 31 January 2019




This paper aims to report on a case study conducted in a private medical partnership of more than 50 specialist physicians where the researcher applied a leadership coaching model grounded in existential philosophy. The paper asserts that existential leadership coaching can be a novel and effective means to address leadership development needs in the unique context of a professional partnership.


The qualitative phenomenological study used a bounded case study design using four purposively selected specialist physicians who were involved in four individual structured coaching sessions over an eight-week period. Data came in writing from participants in the form of reflective questions before and after the coaching, and note-taking on index cards during the coaching process. Data also came from the coach/researcher as a participant observer in the form of note-taking and a reflective journal.


Findings indicate that working with perceptions of leadership in existential coaching conversations can provide a mechanism for members of a partnership to find greater purpose, and choose how they can contribute better to leadership development in their collective. Findings indicate that the process of imaging the perceptions of fellow partners can unlock the identification of and choice for developmental actions and contributions to the collective.

Research limitations/implications

For the selected qualitative design, the researcher as the participant observer provided advantages such as insider access and depth of engagement. The study was limited to a small sample in a particular time and context. Findings are thus viewed in the light of this unique case.

Practical implications

Such a qualitative phenomenological case study provides glimpses into the lives of real-life leaders and offers the coaching, academic and medical fraternities an insider understanding of leadership development in the case of professional partnerships.


The paper points to a mechanism which may be a means to unlock potential and facilitate leadership development in the context of professional partnerships.



Spencer, E.D. and Albertyn, R. (2019), "Existential leadership coaching in a medical partnership", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 69-82.



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