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Improvement leaders: what do they and should they do? A summary of a review of research
  1. John Ovretveit
  1. Health Innovation and Evaluation, Medical Management Centre, The Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Dr John Ovretveit, Medical Management Centre (MMC) Floor 5, Berzelius väg 3, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm SE-171 77, Sweden; jovret{at}


Background There is research evidence to support the growing recognition that leadership influences successful improvement; also that it is one factor explaining slow, partial or failed improvement. However, the evidence is not strong, especially about how important one or more leaders actions were compared with other situational factors.

Methods This paper summarises the evidence found in a review of research into different leader's roles in quality improvement.

Results Actions suited to the situation and type of improvement appear to be the most successful, and this has implications for developing leaders to ‘fit’ their actions to their situation and the improvement, and for research to help them do this better.

Conclusions The full review lists other practical implications for leaders where there is good evidence, and notes other literature which could provide guidance for leaders in the absence of research. It also considers the limitations of the research, and specific subjects for future research where knowledge and practical guidance for leaders are especially needed.

  • Leader
  • quality
  • safety
  • improvement
  • healthcare
  • healthcare quality
  • leadership
  • management
  • patient safety
  • research

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  • Linked articles 043745.

  • Funding The Health Foundation, UK.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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