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Clinical physiotherapists’ experiences of leadership in physiotherapy in Ireland
  1. Emer McGowan1,
  2. Cathal Walsh2,
  3. Emma Stokes1
  1. 1 Department of Physiotherapy, Trinity College, The University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2 Department of Mathematics and Statistics, College of Science and Engineering, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Emer McGowan, Department of Physiotherapy, Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, St. James’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland; emcgowan{at}


Background Previous studies indicated that physiotherapy managers and clinical specialists perceive themselves to be most effective at demonstrating leadership capabilities associated with the human resource and structural frames.

Aim To investigate physiotherapists’ perceptions of the leadership capabilities of physiotherapy management in their workplace.

Methods A quantitative study was performed using a paper-based survey with a purposive sample of physiotherapists. The survey asked participants to rate 24 leadership capabilities on two questions: ‘How important are these capabilities for physiotherapy management to demonstrate?’ and ‘How effective is physiotherapy management in your workplace at demonstrating these capabilities?’ The leadership capabilities were derived from the leadership framework of Bolman and Deal.

Results The response rate was 55% (n=303). The Friedman test indicated that there was a significant difference in the ratings of importance of the leadership capabilities across the frames (X2(3)=9.362, P=0.025). Post-hoc analysis demonstrated that the symbolic leadership capabilities were rated more highly for importance than the structural leadership capabilities (Z=−2.640, P=0.008). There was also a significant difference in the ratings of effectiveness on the leadership capabilities across the frames (X2(3)=78.022, P<0.001). Physiotherapy management were rated as most effective at demonstrating structural and political frame capabilities and least effective on symbolic frame capabilities.

Conclusions There is a discrepancy between the leadership capabilities that physiotherapists perceive physiotherapy management to be most effective at demonstrating and the leadership capabilities they perceive to be most important. Physiotherapy management may benefit from specific leadership programmes to develop their leadership capabilities in the symbolic frame.

  • clinical leadership
  • capability
  • leadership assessment

Statistics from


  • Contributors CW provided guidance on the statistical analysis of the survey and feedback on the reporting and discussion of the data. ES was involved in the planning of the study, contributed to the conduct of the survey and provided feedback on the write-up of the study. EM was involved in all stages of the research and takes responsibility for the overall content as guarantor.

  • Funding Trinity College Studentship.

  • Competing interests ES is the President of the World Confederation for Physical Therapy.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was granted by Trinity College Dublin, Faculty of Health Sciences Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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