Skip to main content

Why is leadership important in healthcare?

7 October 2022

Leadership in healthcare comes in many different forms. It’s not only the head of a department in a hospital or the practice manager in a private medical practice. In fact, any healthcare professional can become a leader in public or private health, social and community care settings. Whether you’re in leadership, management or administration, leadership skills can help you:

  • Gain more understanding of leadership and management in relation to your current role and field of practice
  • Get promoted into a management or leadership role in a health, social, and community care setting
  • Start your own healthcare-related practice
  • Move from a leadership or management role in another industry to a leadership role in healthcare

So, let’s take a look at:

  • Why is leadership important in healthcare?
  • What makes a good healthcare leader?
  • How to be a leader in health, social, and community care settings?
  • Why study healthcare leadership?

Why is leadership important in healthcare?

There are many factors to look at when considering what makes a good leader in healthcare. Successful and valued leaders in healthcare:

  • Continuously strive to improve the equity, effectiveness, efficiency, and quality of care
  • Promote the continuous development of employee's knowledge, skills and abilities
  • Aim to encourage, motivate and reward innovation and introduce new and improved ways of working

In a nutshell, leaders are agents of positive change for all the involved partners, including their followers, peers, as well as healthcare consumers and organisations. They strive to facilitate an environment that is innovative, supportive and inclusive, and results in the best outcomes for staff and consumers alike.

What makes a good healthcare leader?

While some traits are associated with success in leadership (e.g. being a conscientious team player), the important message is that leadership skills can be learnt. To stand out from the crowd, a leadership degree, in addition to lived experience on the job, is a great way to update your skills based on the most evidence-based knowledge, to thrive in this ever-changing environment.

Dr Nasim Salehi, Course Coordinator for the Southern Cross University Online Master of Healthcare Leadership, believes that good healthcare leaders “interconnect the theories they learn to their practice”. The reasoning behind interconnecting theories to practice is to become:

  • More innovative
  • More practical and efficient
  • Better at problem-solving
  • Adept at working smarter rather than harder

This helps good healthcare leaders to lead change and empower other employees to also be agents of change, in this complex and unpredictable atmosphere. Leading change is how we improve the future of healthcare in Australia.

Healthcare leaders come from a variety of backgrounds, with diverse and varied skill sets. According to the Health Times, there is an increasing demand for healthcare leaders with a solid understanding of:

  • Funding processes and how to attract funding from different sources
  • The big picture of healthcare and the relationships between key stakeholders such as national, state and local governments and healthcare organisations
  • Strategic decision-making, by articulating vision, mission, values, goals and how to inspire others to achieve this vision

How to be a leader in health, social, and community care settings?

You may already have some great leadership skills and experience. However, it’s recommended that you refine this with a postgraduate qualification. SCU Online’s Master of Healthcare Leadership gives you the opportunity to learn leadership in multidisciplinary and complex healthcare delivery. It also gives you the tools and skills to put great ideas into practice.

The Master of Healthcare Leadership can be for any practitioner and/or current or aspiring leader/manager in the health, social, and community care settings. We have students from:

  1. Clinical disciplines (e.g. nursing, midwifery, dentistry)
  2. Allied health disciplines (physiotherapy, pharmacy, occupational therapy, and social work)
  3. Health administration/leadership/management
  4. Health research

This degree assists healthcare professionals to extend their knowledge of evidence-based care, policy and processes, as well as further develop and update their professional development and leadership capacities, to move into leadership positions.

Specifically, the Master of Healthcare Leadership is designed to combine your ideas and experiences with the latest practical and research evidence so that you can effectively:

Monitor and improve the quality, accountability and equity of health, social and community care services

This is very important, as it’s all about providing the best healthcare possible to your patients. This involves encouraging all the involved partners to be accountable for their actions. A healthcare leader should aim to make ethical and strategic decisions to use and direct limited resources to where they are needed most.

Facilitate the provision of effective and cost-efficient services across health, social and community care services

Not only is high-quality healthcare important, but it also needs to be efficient and cost-effective. After all, healthcare settings such as allied health and social work care are also businesses that need to be financially sustainable.

“A strategic leader is able to balance effective services, with cost-efficient services to stay competitive in this ever-changing and challenging environment,” says Dr Salehi.

One of the key strategies to enhance effectiveness, accessibility and efficiency is to leverage technology and innovative processes in health, social, and community care settings, based on the population needs (rather than one size fits all). This may seem expensive at the outset, but “in the long-term, it’s going to be a sustainable approach to service provision” says Dr. Salehi.

How to lead in challenging and stressful healthcare environments

Healthcare can be a particularly challenging and stressful workplace environment. It is often fast-paced, resource limited, and at times emotionally and physically taxing. Leading effectively during these times is therefore imperative.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental health and wellbeing at work. As reported in Deloitte’s 2022 Global Health Care Outlook, the effects of mental ill-health costs employers around US$2,000 per employee.

This highlights the importance of managing challenging and stressful periods at your workplace. Emotional intelligence and the so-called “soft skills” of empathy and understanding, listening, supportive communication and feedback, and conflict resolution are now essential in healthcare leaders. Leaders need to “know” themselves before they can know and lead others.

It’s all about “self-awareness in regards to our strengths and weaknesses, and how we can empower ourselves and others to work smarter as a team”, says Dr Salehi.

How to be positive change agents in healthcare systems, policies and practices

Healthcare is always evolving. An effective healthcare leader includes being a positive leader of change. Part of that is inspiring and empowering others within your organisation to be drivers of change.


Because leaders can’t realise change alone, change happens at different levels. This means that it’s not about dictating what to do. Rather, it’s a collective effort. Your staff need to be part of the decision-making process. This not only makes implementing change a lot easier, but it also ensures you promote and maintain a healthy working environment for all.

How to translate the most recent and reliable sources of evidence into practice

This is about keeping up to date and competent in an ever-changing environment.

There’s a lot of information about healthcare available. But there’s not always agreement on the best approach to healthcare. It’s therefore important to know how to distinguish between good and poor evidence before putting it into practice.

This not only ensures that your patients receive the best care possible. It also allows you to recognise gaps in the literature and then use that to secure funding for your organisation.

Why study healthcare leadership?

There are many benefits to studying healthcare leadership. It can benefit those who:

  • are already working in healthcare leadership, as it helps you refine your leadership skills
  • have extensive managerial experience and wish to move into the health sector – studying healthcare leadership will make that transition much easier
  • are healthcare professionals with substantial experience who want to move into a leadership role and gain further insights

SCU Online’s Master of Healthcare Leadership is 100 per cent online, which provides you with a greater amount of flexibility to fit study into your busy schedule. You can study at your own pace while continuing to have a great work-life balance. You’ll attain a variety of skills and knowledge, such as:

  • Leading change in healthcare
  • Strategic planning and management
  • Understanding the relationship between health systems, policies and practices
  • Promoting governance and accountability in healthcare
  • Developing a personal and professional development portfolio
  • Integrating evidence-based practices in health

Due to the comprehensive yet flexible design of the course, there are many career outcomes available to Master of Healthcare Leadership graduates.

Honing your leadership skills with SCU Online

The Master of Healthcare Leadership will give you a broad, interdisciplinary perspective on the changing face of care in health, social, and community settings. It will also help you answer the question ‘why is leadership important in healthcare’, and help you understand what makes a good leader in healthcare.

You might be an experienced registered nurse wanting to move out of direct care. Or you might be from an allied health background wanting to start your own practice. You may even be from a different industry, wanting to take your leadership experience into healthcare.

Whatever your health background, completing a Master of Healthcare Leadership with SCU Online gives you more flexibility, more opportunity and a greater transferable skillset that you can take with you into the future. With SCU online, you will also receive ongoing, personalised support throughout your learning journey.

Learn more about how to become a leader in healthcare and the pathways available to you through online study. Visit the Master of Healthcare Leadership course page for more information.