Leadership Academies Embedded in Universities and Ministries of Health

  • By: James A. Rice, Ph.D.
  • Published Date: January 2013

“I want to improve my management skills, but do not think another lecture in a hotel conference is the way to do it. I want something that is practical but with a good academic base.”

-Hospital Manager in Nigeria

How can leadership development programming be better and more sustainable?

It is possible when the programming is embedded within special “Leadership Academies” based either within Ministries of Health or in university schools of public health, medicine, nursing or business. This edition of the Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) project’s newsletter explores what to do, and what to avoid in establishing such programs, in three spheres of interest: driving for results, investing in faculty development, and embracing competency based practices of leading and managing.

A UNDP-supported leadership academy in Beirut emphasizes the value of teams in working together to target serious health challenges

Background:

“Health care in developing countries is a multibillion-dollar endeavor. Yet the people charged with leading and managing this work have little formal preparation to succeed. Until this truth is recognized, the billions of dollars being pledged by donors—plus the huge investments that countries make in health—will not achieve the hoped-for results.”[1]

Meeting the challenge for more and better health sector leaders demands not only a new generation of public health leaders but also a new generation of training programs with faculty and curriculum designed to develop practical competencies and careers of impact.

This challenge has been particularly difficult in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) as cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their study of the need for a new system of leadership, management and governance.[2] Their work can be summed up as so:

“To achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals, many low-income countries need to significantly scale up coverage of priority health services. Good leadership and management are about providing direction to, and gaining commitment from, partners and staff [...] while leaders set the strategic vision and mobilize the efforts towards its realization, good managers ensure effective organization and utilization of resources to achieve results and meet the aims.”[3]

Persistent Challenges:

This newsletter encourages bolder investments to build the capacity and sustainability of university and ministry of health-based leadership development programs in LMICs in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Our experiences challenge us to avoid what African health leaders often refer to as “hotel teaching” in favor of a more disciplined reliance on “Leadership Academies” that are housed in and nurtured by organizations of higher education or government Ministries of Health. Academies that are more likely to secure resources for sustained pursuit of modern leadership development. Academies that have these five key attributes:

  • Results Driven: the education is a means to the end of significant and sustainable health system performance improvements and outcomes
  • Team Oriented: learning occurs within inter-disciplinary teams expected to immediately apply concepts, skills, and attitudes from the program
  • Execution Focused: principles and practices are applied that address meaningful, real-world and frontline problems facing organizations that protect, promote, or restore health
  • Case Study Guided: learners are engaged to experiment with the application of practices and principles within manageable but provocative and virtual situations related to their work and profession
  • Blended Learning Methods: learning is facilitated by a mix of distance digital and web-based tools, multi-media curricula, venues and feedback mechanisms.

LMICs face some diffucult tasks ahead, namely in addressing the challenges presented by modern leadership development, such as:

  1. Lack of continuity of leadership
  2. Growing public expectations for superior performance
  3. Health professionals being pushed into leadership roles with little education or on the job training
  4. Exploding resource demands driven by the needs of more medicine
  5. Weak understanding of the value and power of good leadership

 

[1] An Urgent Call to Professionalize Leadership and Management in Health Care Worldwide, Joseph Dwyer, Sarah Johnson, and Sylvia Vriesendorp, Management Sciences for Health USAID, October 2006,

[2] WHO, “Towards better leadership and management in health,” Series on Health Systems Strengthening, Ghana February 2007

[3] Ibid, page v.

James A. Rice, PhD., is the Project Director for the Leadership, Management and Governance Project.

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