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Authentic leadership at the Cleveland Clinic: psychological safety in the midst of crisis
  1. Tracy Hopkins Porter1,
  2. Jessica A Peck1,
  3. Brian Bolwell2,
  4. James K Stoller3
  1. 1 Department of Management, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
  2. 2 Mandel Global Leadership and Learning Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
  3. 3 Education Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tracy Hopkins Porter, Management, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA; t.h.porter{at}


Objectives The goal of this research was to examine the leadership experiences of senior leaders at the Cleveland Clinic during the recent COVID-19 pandemic crisis. A secondary goal was to examine lessons that could inform other healthcare organisations as they move into subsequent crisis situations.

Design The authors examined publicly available podcast transcripts where interviewees shared their leadership experiences on the Cleveland Clinic Beyond Leadership Podcast.

Setting/participants Twenty-one publicly available qualitative transcripts were examined inductively and deductively to assess how authentic leadership principles were applied to the experiences noted.

Principal findings Deductively, the four leadership behaviours of authentic leadership (ie, relational transparency, internalised moral perspectives, balanced processing of information and self-awareness) were noted in the transcripts. Inductively, the participants also identified the importance of developing an organisational culture rooted in psychological safety which allowed individuals from all levels of the organisation to voice their ideas, concerns and thoughts. As part of a psychologically safe culture, it was also important to understand the influence of hierarchy in healthcare, ways to encourage employee voice and the uniqueness of leadership during crisis.

Practical applications We first offer insights about the importance of psychological safety, particularly during a crisis. Second, we offer a number of ways that other healthcare organisations might strive to build on their own approach to authentic leadership and develop an organisational culture built on psychological safety.

  • leadership assessment
  • medical leadership
  • Senior medical leader

Data availability statement

No data are available.

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  • Contributors THP, JAP, BB and JKS: contributed to the conceptualization, writing and editing of the document. THP and JAP: contributed to the data analysis and theoretical framework. THP was the guarantor for this publication.

  • 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.