Project Aims

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The ‘Collective Leadership and Safety Cultures’ (Co-Lead) programme is a five-year research project that aims to develop and test the impact on patient safety cultures of collective leadership for healthcare. Collective leadership is not the role of a formal leader, but the interaction of team members to lead the team by sharing in leadership responsibilities. It is not a characteristic of an individual person, but involves the relational process of an entire team, group or organisation.

The Co-Lead programme’s approach will be to develop the team as a dynamic leadership entity.

A key challenge for healthcare organisations is developing and supporting cultures that ensure the delivery of continuously improving high quality, safe and compassionate healthcare and place strong emphasis on leadership. The Co-Lead programme is based on the premise that healthcare is delivered through teamwork, and teams should share responsibility and accountability for quality and patient safety. Enabling this to happen requires an understanding of what leadership supports these teams need in order to continuously improve quality and patient safety.

The programme follows a systems approach, recognising healthcare as a complex system and identifying key points and levels of intervention as essential to enabling a collective leadership approach to create a change in culture. The seven hospital groups with their emphasis on networks delivering integrated, safe care provide a receptive research environment. This programme of research will respond to two key priorities for the IEHG and HSE:

  1. Leadership development
  2. Improving quality and patient safety

The overall aim of the Co-Lead research programme is to support quality and safety cultures through the development and implementation of a new model of healthcare leadership.

Traditional hierarchical leadership models are clearly failing in healthcare, the evidence being the litany of patient safety errors and the reported link to poor leadership and inadequate accountability mechanisms. This research programme will draw on emerging theories of collective leadership - emphasising the leadership capacity of teams rather than individuals - to design leadership development interventions for groups of leaders at different levels within the hospital group and empirically test the impact of these interventions on staff performance and patient safety.

Research Objectives:

  • To design and test a new approach to leadership development grounded within the framework of collective leadership.
  • To assess the impact of collective leadership practice on team performance.
  • To assess the impact of collective leadership practice on staff's perception of their work environment, particularly their job satisfaction, work engagement and turnover intentions.
  • To assess the impact of collective leadership on the safety culture in hospitals.
  • To develop a conceptual model that explains the causal links between collective leadership practice and key factors in the work environment that may be impacting on safety performance in hospitals.

Capacity Building Objectives:

  • To improve the capacity of the UCD research team to conduct health systems research, particularly in the area of leadership and patient safety.
  • To enable the Research Fellows to develop advanced research skills in health systems research, project management and the management of research collaborations.
  • To provide supervision and training opportunities to enable 6 PhD students (two part-time and four full-time) to complete their PhD studies in health systems research within the timeframe of the project.
  • To support the development of collective leadership capacity in all managerial grades across the IEHG.


Collaboration and Networking Opportunities Objectives:

  • To implement staff exchanges between the UCD research team and The King's Fund research team to compare and learn from each other's experiences researching collective leadership and patient safety.
  • To develop an ongoing collaboration with The King's Fund and the HSE that continues to work on inter-connected research programmes in the areas of leadership, teams and patient safety.
  • To develop a network of leaders within the HSE and a process that enables them to lead collectively across the hospital group.

About Us

Collective Leadership and Safety Cultures (Co-Lead) is a 5-year programme in UCD that is researching the impact of an emerging model of leadership (collective leadership) on team performance and healthcare safety.

We are designing and implementing collective leadership interventions for different team types and testing the impact of these interventions on staff performance and patient safety.

Contact Us

Co-Lead Research Programme,
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems,
Room B113, Health Sciences Centre,
University College Dublin
Belfield, Dublin 4.