Transformational leadership in healthcare: What’s the secret?

Stephanie Shufelt, MBA

Founder of

Transformational leadership in healthcare: What’s the secret?

29 January 2021 | 5min

Quick Takes

  • Exceptional change and visionary leaders are needed to help navigate the uncertain journey of transformational change healthcare systems are facing

  • The key ingredient to successful transformational leadership in healthcare is compassion – evidenced by successful entrepeneurs across multiple industries

  • Healthcare leaders that can foster a compassionate and empowering culture within their organization can positively influence innovation within their organization and improved patient safety, experience and clinical efficiency

Increasing industry pressures calls for transformational leadership in healthcare

As the global population steadily increases and health advancements lead to improved life expectancy,1 healthcare systems across the world are facing increasing pressure to keep up with the demand.

Furthermore, company mergers and acquisitions are occurring at a greater frequency, adding to the pressure to reduce overall spend and challenging the ways of working of teams within healthcare organizations.

So how can healthcare leaders effectively lead through this ever-changing landscape?

One thing is certain: companies need to adapt and change. 

The key ingredient to success: Compassion

Transformational leadership in healthcare is needed to help drive innovation forward while managing organizational change from up, down and across.

To be successful, compassion and engagement are needed because with change comes uncertainty, and with uncertainty the company and team culture can be vulnerable. 

Your culture ultimately determines the success of the implementation and adoption of new initiatives. When leaders engage their stakeholders and network, and actively listen to feedback, everyone becomes more engaged and motivated to help innovate and implement change, which increases productivity. 

Exceptional change and visionary leaders are needed to help navigate the uncertain journey of transformational change. Click here to download our ebook to learn more!

What a culture of compassion means for patients?

Compassion is our ability to adopt the perspective and feel the emotions of another person, and subsequently want to take action to help.

In healthcare, the patient is at the center of everything we do. Patient care that is compassionate may have a positive effect on patient outcomes, as suggested by several recent studies.2

Patients reported that receiving compassionate care from clinicians aided recovery, including an increased sense of responsibility and control over their health.2

Proxy reports from psychotherapists described several patient-reported outcomes that improved with compassionate practice, including that patients felt heard and understood.2

As a result of such studies, we are able to gain evidence-based insights as to how compassion in healthcare may lead to better patient experiences and improved care.

The benefits of compassionate transformational leadership in healthcare

Leaders that can foster a compassionate and empowering culture within their organization can positively influence many factors. These include:3,4

1. Innovation within the organization: In a supportive environment, employees are more likely to go above and beyond
2. Clinical effectiveness: Improve patient care at no additional cost
3 Patient safety: Encouraging openness and transparency results in more accurate incident reports
4 Patient experience: Meeting the patient where they are at every step of the journey.
5 Efficient use of resources: Enhancing cooperation between individuals and teams, patients and healthcare professionals
6 Health, wellbeing and engagement of employees: Lower staff turnover, which may reduce long term costs

The organizational behaviour has a profound influence on its culture and is driven by what leaders focus on, discuss, and value. Leaders need to consider connectivity, active listening, coaching and shared accountability in order to empower and motivate staff to help improve results and accelerate change.

Transformational Leadership in healthcare (ebook)_Article image 1_Connectivity

To support organizational behaviour change, it is necessary to create a culture where failure is accepted and staff are not penalized. 

Consider Virgin’s ‘wow’ factor case study whereby Richard Branson focuses on three key rules: communicate, accept that failure is the foundation for success, and put your employees first, even ahead of your customers.

Take inspiration from real-life entrepreneurs who have implemented successful leadership tactics to improve their organization. Download your ebook now.

Actions to help create a culture of compassion

  • Establish a culture of continuous improvement
  • Practice active listening when engaging with employees, customers and patients
  • Proactively engage in coaching behaviour 
  • Establish feedback channels and commit to implementing changes as needed
  • Empower more employees to take decisions and lead

Creating a culture where failure is accepted, and where employees are not reprimanded for failures, will ultimately lead to innovation.5

Shaking up how we work 

The healthcare industry is probably the most unique and rapidly changing which poses significant challenges to healthcare leaders. Medical discoveries are changing how we treat patients; aging populations are reshaping how we look at diseases and models of care. In such a landscape, it is pertinent for healthcare companies to innovate more rapidly to respond to market needs.

When you are able to take a deeper look into the way you do things alongside your staff, you can see the opportunities to simplify and improve. 

Actions to help improve teamwork and innovation

  • Consider what data you own and identify potential organizations with similar goals and values that could also benefit from this data
  • Gather feedback from employees on a regular basis
  • Look at other internal and external models that are already working for inspiration

How to create a compassionate culture that inspires transformational change?

One thing is certain, it is leaders that bare the most responsibility in motivating and inspiring others to achieve common goals. It is imperative that we work together, listen, and continue to innovate as we move through this healthcare transformation together.  

To help, we’ve put together the top strategies that leaders across diverse fields use to help create a compassionate culture – one that elevates their organization to help improve innovation and productivity. 

What we aim to answer in our ebook on transformational leadership in healthcare:

  • How can a leader successfully navigate the ever-changing healthcare landscape?
  • What makes an effective and successful leader?
  • How can you encourage innovation in your organization?

Download our ebook to learn more!

Stephanie Shufelt, MBA is one of the editors and founders of She is dedicated to delivering high quality content on the topic of the future of healthcare to our readers.


  1. Roser et al. (2019). World Population Growth. Article available from: [Accessed January 2021]
  2. Sinclair et al. (2016). BMC Palliat Care 15, 6
  3. The Kings Fund. (2017). Article available from [Accessed January 2021]
  4. NHS England. (2013). Article available from [Accessed January 2021]
  5. WeWork. (2019). Compassionate directness is an essential ingredient for innovation. Article available from: [Accessed January 2021]