Complex leadership competency in health care: towards framing a theory of practice

Health Serv Manage Res. 2009 Aug;22(3):101-14. doi: 10.1258/hsmr.2008.008016.


Many analysts characterize the health-care industry and health-care systems as complex adaptive organizations. New hybrid organizational forms are emerging that exhibit diverse relational-structural alliances between physicians, hospitals and/or insurers, over which administrators have limited control and restricted ability to predict or direct. Meeting the challenges in leading and managing health-care systems as complex adaptive organizations calls for additional competency in what theorists determine as 'complex leadership'. This research study presents findings on complex leadership principles that augment those competencies that health-care administration education scholars recognize and recommend as necessary for future leaders in health care to master. The findings from this study make two contributions: first, they ground complex leader theory, derived from complexity science, in empirical data; and second, the findings add to a growing body of literature investigating the underlying logics of the complex adaptive organization and the innovative ways complex leaders are developing practices and principles in leading and managing these new, emerging organizations.

MeSH terms

  • Chief Executive Officers, Hospital
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Health Facility Administration
  • Health Services Administration*
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Professional Competence*
  • Psychological Theory