Interprofessional Collaborative Leadership

Collaborative Leadership: Working together to improve health outcomes by recognizing all of us – leaders, providers, health professionals, patients, families, and community – as learners and leaders.


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Collaborative leadership is centered on the engagement of healthcare and community leaders across professions and from different backgrounds, with the goal to build strategies, solve problems, and improve health outcomes through interprofessional collaboration. The traditional model of leadership disseminates information and key decisions through a ‘top-down’ method, where team and community members often have little insight or input in the decision-making process. Collaborative leadership differs from the top-down model because it relies on active participation across professions, community members, and stakeholders. 

The hallmark of a collaborative leader is one who fosters a culture of shared trust and respect. Collaborative leaders create an environment where other interprofessional leaders and team members feel encouraged to openly and effectively share ideas, contribute their expertise, and offer feedback. This type of leadership promotes a sense of shared responsibility and ownership among team members. A collaborative leader draws from the knowledge and skills of not only their own team members, but also from the lived experiences of community leaders and members. It’s important for a collaborative leader to recognize that community contributions are diverse, valued, and necessary. 

Implications for Interprofessional Collaboration

Collaborative leadership is an essential part of interprofessional practice. As multidisciplinary healthcare professionals, we all have diverse expertise and perspectives, and a collaborative leadership approach can leverage our experiences to better understand and serve our patients and community. It’s also important to recognize that healthcare is inherently hierarchical, and we are often working in situations with unequal power dynamics that negatively impact our patients and community. Collaborative leadership relies on a patient- and community-centered approach to mitigate this power dynamic. This looks like directly involving those most impacted in the decision-making processes and using trauma-informed strategies to improve health outcomes. 

An interprofessional collaborative leader sees themselves as learners – rather than sole decision-makers – alongside their peers, colleagues, and patients they are caring for. In your interprofessional and healthcare role, take the time to assess how to implement collaborative leadership skills into your practice. This could include seeking input from community leaders, incorporating shared decision-making into patient visits, or consulting colleagues outside of your discipline for their perspectives. 

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