Intensive courses and group coaching sessions strengthen managers, doctors and medical students in their role as leaders, according to a new doctoral thesis from Karolinska Institutet. The thesis evaluates two of the most common methods of leadership development in the Swedish healthcare services.
Doctors and managers working in the healthcare services need support and supervision if they are to handle their different leadership roles. However, there is often a lack of evaluations able to identify the forms of leadership development that are the most effective in practice.
For his doctoral thesis, senior physician David Bergman evaluated and compared two common approaches to leadership development in the Swedish healthcare system: Intensive leadership courses and group coaching, through which leadership skills are developed over a longer period under the supervision.
The coaching groups studied comprised 60 doctors, who underwent supervised coaching for two years, while the intensive courses were aimed at medical students and lasted a week. A leadership programme for managers consisting of a week’s intensive course and a 1 to 2-year group development programme was also studied. All the studies were conducted at Södersjukhuset, one of the main hospitals in Stockholm.
The evaluations, which were carried out with the help of questionnaires and focus group interviews, shows that the participants state that the methods complement each other and strengthen different facets of leadership.
The results suggest that long-term leadership development groups can enhance managers’ perception of structure in their leadership role, support leadership development within their organizational context, reduce negative informal hierarchies, expose gender aspects in an organisation, facilitate the establishment of a learning organisation, and improve the working environment. Intensive courses improve participants’ self-awareness and understanding of the importance of their own leadership, and support learning as regards group dynamics, development and communication.
“Intensive leadership courses should be made available as a first step to current and future healthcare leaders,” says Dr Bergman. “They should then be followed by group coaching sessions over a longer period to support the participants’ leadership skills in their day-to-day work.”
Doctoral thesis: Leadership development: A comparative evaluation of short-term and long-term programmes in Swedish health care, David Bergman, Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics (LIME), Karolinska Institutet.
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