Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to address issues of medical leadership within health systems and to clarify the associated conceptual issues, for example, leadership versus management and medical versus clinical leadership. However, its principle contribution is to raise the issue of the purpose or outcome of medical leadership, and, in this respect, it argues that it is to promote medical engagement.
Design/methodology/approach: The approach is to provide evidence, both from the literature and empirically, to suggest that enhanced medical engagement leads to improved organisational performance and, in doing so, to review the associated concepts.
Findings: Building on current evidence from the UK and Australia, the authors strengthen previous findings that effective medical leadership underpins the effective organisational performance.
Research limitations/implications: There is a current imbalance between the size of the databases on medical engagement between the UK (very large) and Australia (small but developing).
Practical implications: The authors aim to equip medical leaders with the appropriate skill set to promote and enhance greater medical engagement. The focus of leaders in organisations should be in creating a culture that fosters and supports medical engagement.
Social implications: This paper provides empowerment of medical professionals to have greater influence in the running of the organisation in which they deliver care.
Originality/value: The paper contains, for the first time, linked performance data from the Care Quality Commission in the UK and from Australia with the new set of medical engagement findings.
Keywords: Health leadership initiatives; Leadership; Organizational performance.