Regional healthcare economy requires a leadership rethink to focus on the public interest during a period of rapid transformation

health leadership

Dr. Stephen Brookes is senior fellow in public policy and management and specialises in leadership and organisational development with a special focus on healthcare management, The University of Manchester

There is a unique set of challenges facing leaders in the regional healthcare sector, highlighting the need for collective and selfless leadership to successfully meet the public’s healthcare needs.

With the region’s high population growth and rise of non communicable diseases, greater focus on wellness and prevention, and digital transformation of the industry, demand for healthcare services continues to outstrip the supply of services and talent, and is leading to escalating costs.

A shared vision and clear focus on the public interest are essential for successful leadership in these increasingly complex organisations and collaborations, to balance the demands of shareholders and stakeholders – a style known as ‘selfless leadership’.

Leading through networks requires a much more collective approach rather than taking the traditional single-minded focus of the individual leader leading through a hierarchy.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) are a route to access new sources of finance and expertise to build capacity and deliver much-needed services. Aligning both public and private provision of healthcare with an even stronger need to balance profit and

the public interest is a challenge. Most importantly, it's about putting the patient at the heart of what healthcare leaders do.

My university’s own research shows that there are four principal challenges in healthcare leadership. Ensuring equal access to healthcare in a timely, cost-effective and seamless manner; Giving prevention as much priority as treatment; Delivering healthcare across a range of public and private (and hybrid) systems; and Integrating care across primary, secondary and tertiary providers.

A selfless leader is someone who leads in the public interest to create public value. This requires a break from the traditional notions of ‘leader’ and ‘followers’, and a shift to ‘us’ as leaders working collectively towards collective aims in the public interest, and overcoming the challenges facing the industry. Given the structure of communications and social media today, there are now many more opportunities to be far more inclusive in the leadership of healthcare.”

There is a very special quote that illustrates the idea of selfless leadership, from His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in his book “My Vision: the challenges in the race for excellence”, in which he states:

“The real crisis is rather one of leadership management and perennial egotism. This is the kind of crisis that is bound to happen when lust for power prevails over granting people the love and care that they deserve and when the interests and destiny of one individual become more important than those of the whole nation”.

Everyone in the sector - healthcare regulators, senior leaders, experts and investors – should be working together to meet the challenges facing the sector, including the leadership challenge during this exceptional period of rapid transformation, and to share best practices from across the world.