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Leadership development of health and social care professionals: a systematic review
  1. Emer McGowan1,
  2. Jennifer Hale2,
  3. Janet Bezner2,
  4. Kenneth Harwood3,
  5. Jennifer Green-Wilson4,
  6. Emma Stokes5
  1. 1 Discipline of Physiotherapy, University of Dublin Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2 Physical Therapy, Texas State University, Round Rock, Texas, USA
  3. 3 Clinical Research and Leadership, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  4. 4 Health Care Administration, SUNY Brockport, Brockport, New York, USA
  5. 5 Department of Physiotherapy, College of Health Sciences, QU Health, Qatar University, Doha, Ad Dawhah, Qatar
  1. Correspondence to Dr Emer McGowan, Physiotherapy, University of Dublin Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland; emcgowan{at}


The need to develop leaders across all levels of the health system including clinical staff has been recognised. Investments are made by healthcare organisations each year to develop leadership within their workforce hence there is a need to evaluate these development programmes to investigate whether the stated objectives have been achieved. The aim of this review was to systematically review published literature on the effect of leadership development for health and social care professionals (HSCPs). The databases, CINAHL, EMBASE, ERIC, Medline, PsychInfo, Scopus and Web of Science, were systematically searched. After screening and quality analysis, nine full-text articles were included in the review. The included studies demonstrated a range of methodological quality and there was high variability in the leadership development programmes in terms of programme length, content, structure, participants and evaluation methods. Transformational leadership was the leadership model most frequently employed. The reported results suggest that these educational interventions have positive effects on participants such as improved leadership behaviours, increased confidence and workplace engagement. However, the mixed methodological quality of the studies and high variability between the courses mean that definitive recommendations for leadership development programmes for HSCPs cannot be made. High-quality, longitudinal studies using rigorous evaluation methods are needed to provide the necessary evidence to inform the development of future programmes.

  • leadership assessment
  • research
  • development
  • continuous improvement

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  • Twitter @EmerMcGowan, @jbezner

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the planning of the review. EMcG was involved in all stages of the review. JH conducted screening, data extraction and contributed to the writing of the review. JB conducted screening and contributed to the writing of the review. KH conducted data extraction and contributed to the writing of the review. JG-W conducted data extraction and contributed to the writing of the review. ES conducted screening, quality analysis and contributed to the writing of the review.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

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

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Data availability statement Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this article as it is a systematic review.

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