Professionalization of Health Leaders and Managers: Leading Change and Promoting Better Healthcare Worldwide

By James A. Rice, Director, LMG Project

Dr. Rice, in Afghanistan, discussing the role of health leaders and managers to improve healthcare worldwide. Photo: MSH Staff

Evidence shows that much can be improved simply by paying attention to how health providers are managing and leading their facilities and teams.[1] What if scarce resources were managed more carefully? What if the dynamic men and women who work in difficult health care situations were managed as a precious resource? What if facility and district health managers could mobilize more local resources, and develop better systems for ordering supplies, scheduling patients, and supervising staff? How can health teams lead change?

This edition of the LMG Project’s eNewsletter provides a vision and clear guidance on professionalizing health management, leading change, and receiving support and guidance from health colleagues along the way. The eManager publication on Paving the Way toward Professionalizing Leadership and Management in Healthcare explains the benefits of investing in health leadership and management. It also offers a practical four-phased approach that explains how to make it happen in the workplace.

Leading change is an important part of health leadership, although it’s not easy. Joseph Dwyer’s article on Change Management for Health Leadership Teams explains the principles of the change process, and offers resources to support health leaders in defining the need for change, and how to plan for demonstration and scale-up of successful change efforts.

Finally, we all recognize that health leaders and managers can’t do all of this alone—they require continuous learning and knowledge development. Professional associations not only secure good workplace conditions and fair compensation (the trade union role)—they also support lifelong learning and capacity building, including support to health leaders, managers, and policymakers. Professional associations, especially in low-and middle-income countries, can provide value in ensuring access to knowledge about best practices, and providing resources for advocacy, professional education and training opportunities.

The LMG Project supports professionalizing leadership and management in healthcare, which includes the establishment of health manager professional associations with dedicated leadership and active governing bodies. The associations also need wise strategic plans and funding support. In a recent workshop held by the USAID-funded African Strategies for Health (ASH) and LMG projects in Arusha, Tanzania, health leaders defined five strategies to strengthen health professional associations. At another workshop in Zimbabwe, health leaders developed ten income-generating strategies to support a professional association’s impact, and ensure sustainability and continuity of activities.

We hope these articles will provide you with plenty of practical ideas in leading you and your health team’s professional development, growth and change.

[1] Kebede et al. 2010, Mansour et al. 2010, O’Neil et al. forthcoming, Ortega 2004, Rowe et al. 2010, Seims et al. 2012, Wong and Bradley 2009, Wong et al. 2012