Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Compassion: a leadership imperative for health systems
  1. James Mountford1,2,
  2. Stephen Powis1,3
  1. 1 Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2 UCL Partners, London, UK
  3. 3 Department of Nephrology, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr James Mountford, Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, London NW3 2QG, UK; james.mountford{at}

Statistics from

In 2013, a You-Tube clip of the Head of the Australian Army went viral. In the 3 minute video, the unblinking, fixed gaze and resolute words of Lieutenant General David Morrison left viewers in no doubt he would root out of the Army those who did not uphold its values of respect for others.1 He had been prompted to speak out by reports of degrading attitudes and behaviours to women and minorities within the army by fellow soldiers.

The good (or bad) news for leaders is that what leaders pay attention to matters. Leaders’ words and actions carry disproportionate weight, and so they need to consider very carefully what they say and what they do. In short, leadership matters: organisations, in health care and other industries, which are better led perform better. There is now consistent evidence linking better leadership and management to greater patient satisfaction, better outcomes (including mortality) and efficiency.2 The Care Quality Commission (the quality regulator for the National Health Service (NHS) in England) suggests the dimension underpinning all five dimensions on which providers are rated is ‘well led’.

The stand-out line …

View Full Text


  • Contributors JM and SP jointly developed the concept for this piece. JM wrote first draft; SP added content and edited this.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.