Using leadership development programs to improve quality and efficiency in healthcare

J Healthc Manag. 2008 Sep-Oct;53(5):319-31; discussion 331-2.


With heightened emphasis on the imperatives to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivered in U.S. hospitals and health systems, healthcare managers are challenged to consider innovative approaches to address these issues. Leadership development programs are increasingly common offerings within healthcare organizations, but linking such initiatives to quality and efficiency improvement programs remains rare. This article uses data from three qualitative studies of leadership development in healthcare to answer the question, "What opportunities might exist to use leadership development programs to improve quality and efficiency?" Interviews from 200 individuals were conducted between September 2003 and December 2007 with hospital and health system managers and executives, academic experts, consultants, individuals representing associations and vendors of leadership development programs, and program participants. Analyses of these data showed that leadership development programs provide four important opportunities to improve quality and efficiency in healthcare: (1) by increasing the caliber of the workforce, (2) by enhancing efficiency in the organization's education and development activities, (3) by reducing turnover and related expenses, and (4) by focusing organizational attention on specific strategic priorities. Several concrete examples of how to leverage leadership development in these ways are provided to help managers consider how to apply these research findings. Healthcare managers can use the results reported from these studies to extend the reach of current leadership development programs or to inform the design of new initiatives that focus specifically on quality and efficiency improvement. Although quantitative metrics are required to measure definitive improvements in quality and efficiency in healthcare, these qualitative data highlight opportunities through which leadership development initiatives can contribute to improvement efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Efficiency, Organizational*
  • Health Services Administration
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Program Development
  • Quality of Health Care*