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Leadership development programmes in healthcare research: a systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-aggregation
  1. Harry Kingsley-Smith1,
  2. Christian E Farrier2,
  3. Daniel Foran1,
  4. Koot Kotze2,
  5. Kamal Mahtani2,
  6. Sarah Short3,
  7. Anna Mae Scott4,
  8. Oscar Lyons2,5
  1. 1Oxford University Clinical Academic Graduate School, University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Nuffield Department of Primary Health Care Sciences, University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division, Oxford, UK
  3. 3Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division, Oxford, UK
  4. 4Bond University Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
  5. 5Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Harry Kingsley-Smith, Oxford University Clinical Academic Graduate School, University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division, Oxford, UK; harry.kingsley-smith{at}; Dr Oscar Lyons; oscar.lyons{at}


Background Academic institutions benefit from researchers adopting leadership positions and, subsequently, leadership development programmes are of increasing importance. Despite this, no evaluation of the evidence basis for leadership development programmes for healthcare researchers has been conducted. In this study, the authors reviewed leadership development programmes for healthcare researchers and aimed to identify their impact and the factors which influenced this impact.

Methods The authors searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and PsycINFO between January 2000 and January 2023 for evaluations of leadership development programmes with healthcare researchers. The authors synthesised results through exploratory meta-analysis and meta-aggregation and used the Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument (MERSQI) and Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Checklist for Qualitative Studies to identify higher-reliability studies.

Results 48 studies met inclusion criteria, of which approximately half (22) met the criteria for higher reliability. The median critical appraisal score was 10.5/18 for the MERSQI and 3.5/10 for the JBI. Common causes of low study quality appraisal related to study design, data analysis and reporting. Evaluations principally consisted of questionnaires measuring self-assessed outcomes. Interventions were primarily focused on junior academics. Overall, 163/168 categorised programme outcomes were positive. Coaching, experiential learning/project work and mentoring were associated with increased organisational outcomes.

Conclusion Educational methods appeared to be more important for organisational outcomes than specific educational content. To facilitate organisational outcomes, educational methods should include coaching, project work and mentoring. Programmes delivered by external faculty were less likely to be associated with organisational outcomes than those with internal or mixed faculty, but this needs further investigation. Finally, improving evaluation design will allow educators and evaluators to more effectively understand factors which are reliably associated with organisational outcomes of leadership development.

  • leadership assessment
  • research
  • Education
  • mentoring

Data availability statement

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Data are available on reasonable request.

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  • Contributors HK-S, CEF, KK, AMS, KM and OL contributed to the conception and design of the review. HK-S, CEF, KK, SS, DF and OL screened studies for inclusion. HK-S, CEF, KK, SS, DF and OL abstracted, appraised and coded studies. HK-S, KK, AMS and OL contributed to the data analysis. All authors contributed to the drafting and editing of the article. All authors reviewed and approved the final manuscript prior to submission, agreeing to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

  • Funding HK-S was supported by University of Oxford’s Clinical Academic Graduate School (OUCAGS) and a Horlock Trust Studentship (University of Oxford) during this work. CEF, KK and SS were all supported by Rhodes Scholarships. DF was also supported by OUCAGS.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.