Establishing common leadership practices and their influence on providers and service delivery in selected hospitals in Lusaka province, Zambia
Keywords:Transformational leadership, Transactional leadership, Laissaze-fare leadership, leadership practices
In an evolving health care environment, hospitals need managers with high levels of technical and professional expertise who do not only concentrate on patient care, but also go further to demonstrate good leadership practices. In Zambia, the health sector’s mission is “to provide equity of access to cost-effective quality health services as close to the family as possible”. Only competent leadership can drive such an agenda. This study, conducted in selected 1st level Lusaka hospitals aimed at establishing the existing common leadership practices and their influence on healthcare providers and service delivery. The study employed a cross-sectional qualitative research method design, to establish and examine the leadership practices through 10 health system managers and 32 healthcare providers. The data was obtained using in-depth interviews, focus group discussion, participant observation and document review. Data analysis was done by first transcribing audio-recorded interviews and grouping them into data sets (matrixes) where emerging themes were categorized manually. The information obtained assisted in making conclusions and interpretations by providing eminent explanations pointing to specific leadership styles and influence caused on healthcare providers and service delivery. The common leadership practices obtained in this study was the transformational leadership followed by transactional leadership while laissez-faire was rare type of leadership. This conclusion was arrived at through the practices that were pointing to transformational and transactional leadership as preferred by the leaders and perceived or experienced by providers. These practices were explained as networking, interpersonal relationships, human/material resources management, monitoring and evaluation, dictatorial tendencies and overworking of employees. Furthermore, these practices were seen to have strong influence on healthcare providers through enhanced confidence, motivation for hard work and compromised quality of care. The resultant impact on service delivery was high quality performance as well as poor performance. Leadership styles affect employees’ commitment, motivation, satisfaction, extra effort and efficiency. This in turn has a bearing on performance and directly or indirectly influences patient care and its quality. Health system managers have a significant role in using leadership styles that promote good practice. It can be safely concluded that hospital performance and quality health care delivery services is a product of several factors. The analysis of leadership practices in this study shows two of the factors influencing hospital performance. The first factor is the effectiveness of leaders within the hospital and secondly the dedication, motivation, commitment and performance of employees that will improve health care services.