Distributed leadership in health quality improvement collaboratives

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Background and Purpose Distributed leadership has been suggested for describing patterns of influence in collaborative settings where public services are performed across professions and organizations. This study explores how leadership in health quality improvement collaboratives (QICs) is characterized by aligned distributed leadership practices, and how these practices relate with experienced progress and achievements in the quality improvement (QI) work. Methods The analysis relied on a qualitative, multicase study of two nationwide Danish QICs. Data consisted of 12 single-person and 21 group interviews with local QI teams and local and regional QIC coordinators (85 informants in total), participant observations of 34 meetings within the QICs, and a collection of documentary material. The collected data were analyzed thematically with NVivo. Results Leadership practices in local QI teams are characterized by aligned distributed leadership, with leadership activities being widely distributed based on negotiated, emergent practices regarding the aims, roles, and scope of the QI work. However, local quality coordinators play a pivotal role in driving the QI activities, and hierarchical support from hospital/municipal management is a precondition for the contribution of aligned distributed leadership to experienced progress and QIs. Practice Implications Emergent distributed leadership should be balanced by thorough consolidation of the practices to provide the best circumstances for robust QI. The active participation of formal managers and local coordinators plays a pivotal role in this consolidation and is decisive for the increased potential for long-term success and sustainability of the QI work, particularly within complex QICs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Care Management Review
Pages (from-to)46-58
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • alignment
  • distributed leadership
  • health care
  • quality improvement collaboratives
  • Leadership
  • Quality Improvement
  • Humans
  • Data Collection
  • Qualitative Research


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