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How situations promote relational and social leadership capabilities: three considerations for leadership development in healthcare
  1. Bradley J Hastings,
  2. Gavin M Schwarz
  1. Business, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bradley J Hastings, Business, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; b.hastings{at}

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Crises provide both a catalyst for change and reflection on the leadership practices that facilitate it. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed healthcare leadership in the spotlight, with many stories describing how physicians, nurses and first responders made radical changes to core care processes. While these ‘rise to the challenge’ tales are intended to be helpful, it is our view that reflection has focused too often on exemplifying leadership capabilities, and less so on dissecting clues for leadership development. In this commentary, with a focus on leadership in healthcare, we argue that consideration of the cues presented by crisis situations provide a mechanism to foster desired leadership capabilities during non-crisis times.

What defines good leadership?

Take for example two recent articles in this journal that have reflected on crisis leadership capabilities. Woiceshyn et al provided an explanation for how—when the current pandemic was in its early phases—a group of concerned physicians came together to radically redesign the workforce model for acute care.1 Motivated by early data showing how quickly emergency departments would be overrun, the physicians built a shared vision of how increased demand could be met, redesigned existing processes, then brought junior physicians and executive leadership on board with a change programme. Ultimately, these hospitals were successful in meeting the huge increases in demand. Additionally, Stoller catalogued pandemic-induced leadership at the Cleveland healthcare clinic by comparing observations to a framework of five leadership capabilities—inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, modelling the way and encouraging the heart.2 3 Exemplified with an emphasis on shared, challenging, and enabling capabilities, this perspective describes leadership as a dialogical interaction between traditional hierarchies—an approach that stands in contrast to a traditional monological interaction where a single leader takes charge.

While this focus is helpful in clarifying the target for leadership development …

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  • Contributors This is an original commentary of which BH was the primary author. GMS provided input regarding organisational change theories. The paper is being exclusively submitted for consideration to publish in BMJ Leader.

  • 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 None declared.

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