Leadership and Health System Redesign


The Centre for Health Leadership and Research (CHLR) is completing a four-year research project entitled Leadership and Health System Redesign.  The project’s principal investigator Graham Dickson, principal decision maker Bill Tholl, and operational lead Ron Lindstrom presented findings of the project on June 3, 2014 in a breakfast session at the 2014 National Health Leadership Conference held in Banff, AB.

Overall project findings confirm that leadership is fundamental to improving performance through redesign of organizations or systems. What is needed are capacities in self-reflection, strategic leadership, and systems thinking. Success lies in building capacity in these areas and striking the right balance between distributed and designated leadership, based on a common vision. 

The purpose of the Leadership and Health System Redesign project was to help develop leadership capacity in the Canadian health system through applied research and knowledge translation. The project was stewarded by a network comprised of senior decision makers (under the auspices of the Canadian Health Leadership Network [CHLNet representing over 40 health organizations]) and representatives of the health leadership research community from nine universities across Canada (with Royal Roads University [RRU] as institution of record) in a unique collaborative partnership – a network of networks. The intention was to build a bridge between researchers and leaders in the field of leadership.

The Canadian Institutes for Health Research under the Partnerships for Health System Improvement (PHSI) grants and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research provided the funding for this four-year project ($450,000 over four years, with $400,000 in kind from project partners).

Six case study projects across Canada (BC, Prairies, Ontario, Québec, and Atlantic (Nova Scotia and Newfoundland) and National) undertook to explore and understand the leadership dynamics at play across Canada in redesigning the health system through three research questions:

  1. What is the current state of health leadership capacity in Canada?  What is working, or not working, in terms of stimulating and supporting health system transformation, and what contextual factors influence effective leadership action?
  2. Where are the gaps between current practices, the evidential base in the literature, and the expectations for leadership outlined in the emerging health leadership capability/competency frameworks (e.g., LEADS capabilities framework), and how might a set of national standards for leadership be structured?
  3. How can knowledge of effective leadership be translated and mobilized by the network into approaches, programs, tools and techniques to develop a culture of effective leadership in Canada, and enhance the development of quality health leaders?

The Leadership and Health System Redesign Cross Case Analysis Final Report is available for review and download at the CHLR’s publications page here.