The power of servant leadership to transform health care organizations for the 21st-century economy

Arch Surg. 2002 Dec;137(12):1419-27; discussion 1427. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.137.12.1419.


Physician leadership is emerging as a vital component in transforming the nation's health care industry. Because few physicians have been introduced to the large body of literature on leadership and organizations, we herein provide a concise review, as this literature relates to competitive health care organizations and the leaders who serve them. Although the US health care industry has transitioned to a dynamic market economy governed by a wide range of internal and external forces, health care organizations continue to be dominated by leaders who practice an outmoded transactional style of leadership and by organizational hierarchies that are inherently stagnant. In contrast, outside the health care sector, service industries have repeatedly demonstrated that transformational, situational, and servant leadership styles are most successful in energizing human resources within organizations. This optimization of intellectual capital is further enhanced by transforming organizations into adaptable learning organizations where traditional institutional hierarchies are flattened and efforts to evoke change are typically team driven and mission oriented.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Economic Competition
  • Health Care Reform / organization & administration*
  • Hierarchy, Social
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Models, Organizational
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Physician's Role*
  • United States