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What is ‘everyday’ Clinical leadership – and how does it make a difference to care?

What is ‘everyday’ Clinical leadership – and how does it make a difference to care?

Effective clinical leadership has long been an aspiration for acute care services. With the establishment of clinical governance in aged, disability and community care, these sectors are increasingly focused on how to develop leaders for quality clinical care. This AICG Paper explores the concept of clinical leadership for quality care as an ‘everyday’ responsibility across human service organisations.

We know that leadership is a key lever in creating consistently high-quality care, and can also contribute to greater job satisfaction among staff. But clinical leadership can also be just another buzzword, not dissimilar to ‘person-centred’ which is something everyone likes to think they both understand and enact. As with ‘person-centred’ care, clinical leadership is easy to talk about, powerful when effective, but hard to get right in practice.  

Clinical leadership (or ‘care/support/service’ leadership, depending on the sector) is a cornerstone of effective clinical governance, but not if it sits only at the top of an organisation. Clinical leadership cultivated in everyday work has the potential to improve care quality and safety and build staff satisfaction and resilience. This can only be achieved with effective design, development and implementation. 

Providing care in human service is a team sport: everyone must play a specific role to achieve consistently good care. Clinical care and support staff must work together. When they don’t, both consumers and staff suffer the consequences. Much like a sports team, leadership can – and should be – found all over the field,  from the star players to those in supporting roles. 

A ‘distributed’ or ‘shared’ leadership approach positions every player to contribute to the team's success. Successful human service organisations that adopt a similar philosophy recognise that leadership for good care cannot be run solely from the executive office, but must permeate every level - with front-line staff playing a central role. Human services are already a mix of formal and informal leadership, whether we recognise it or not. Care quality is determined not only through senior leaders and middle managers but also through the decisions and actions of staff at all levels.

Vast volumes have been written on clinical leadership over many decades. This paper does not attempt to re-state them but examines the more specific concept of ‘everyday’ clinical leadership for supporting quality clinical care (and care/support more broadly). Benefits and barriers are noted and key tips for cultivating ‘everyday’ clinical leadership are discussed.

You can download the full paper here. 

All accessed 22/10/23:

AICG Everyday Leadership Paper