Offering the latest news in health care quality and safety, the ISQua blog also features guest posts from the best and brightest in the industry.

By Hugh MacLeod Thursday. Jun 25, 2020



Hugh MacLeod

This is a crucial moment in time as we observe a myriad of storms that are gathering: the Black Lives Matter storm testing systemic racism consciousness and our morale fabric; the COVID-19/financial storm that is dashing public health protection measures against economic recovery; the social media storm influencing mindsets and behaviours; and an employee storm of no permanence and uncertainty.


This is not the time for conventional tweaks and Band-Aid approaches that only prolong the ills of our human organisational systems. Leaders need to be gritty; they need to stand up against outdated systems and relationship patterns. They need to use their voice, influence, and energy to break down and remove each and every barrier that obstructs skills, talents and potentialities of everyone in the organisation for progressive change.


This is the time to strip the system of its futility and detritus so human organisational systems can become nimble and capable of transformation. Silence, unawareness, indifference, and complacency are enemies of organisational improvement and sustainability. They are also enemies of a better future.


Collectively there is an abundance of brilliant minds, brave souls, compassionate hearts, technological wizards, and creative geniuses. To all authentic servant and transformative leaders, now is the time to abandon stale protocols, outmoded agendas, incomplete strategies, forceful top-down mandates, self-serving ambitions, quick fixes and the fear of change.


It would be presumptuous of me to set out a one size fits all ‘how to’ leadership foot print. Each organisation has its own unique: context, culture, plurality, community and state of readiness from board to CEO to C-suite to middle management and front line. Having said that, finding a way to re-frame the issues swirling within the myriad of storms would be a good start. To start also means to stop; now is the time to:


  • STOP looking in the rear-view mirror. START looking forward and seeing an image in which disruption is the new normal.
  • STOP the never-ending meetings of talk with no action or follow up. START using time wisely to create momentum that embraces real action.
  • STOP the never-ending dance that has executives pirouetting around managers, and the never-ending dance of management and front-line workers twirling around customer needs. START bringing to the surface institutional indifference, silence, complacency and a laissez faire casual attitude.
  • STOP the creation of territorial divides and self-absorbed behaviours and mindsets. START active listening and value conversations that honour diversity of inclusion.
  • STOP talking about how organisational systems are broken – they are delivering what they were designed to deliver. START a conversation about what needs to be re-designed in order to honour the paradox of simultaneous continuity and change
  • STOP talking about organisations as separate sub-systems. START talking about organisational systems as multi layered and complex human systems. 
  • STOP polite and controlled engagement processes. START radical yet respectful candour by naming the elephants in the room, tough issues that no one wants to talk about. 
  • STOP glossing over "people statistics". START a conversation about why workers suffer workplace wellness issues each and every day. 
  • STOP using leadership frameworks and expectations as the fodder for polite leadership conversations, and abrogating responsibility to act accordingly. START behaving as those frameworks suggest servant and transformative leaders ought to lead. 
  • START creating the glue that holds the fabric of human organisations together and accept that the elasticity, bond, and effectiveness of the glue is determined by the overall relationship welfare of the human organisational system.


Now is the time for leaders to challenge the automatic perpetuation of the status quo and be open to accepting there may be no status in the quo!


To quote Martin Luther King…. Never, never be afraid to do whats right; especially if the well-being of a person is at stake. Societys punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”



ISQua Expert & Member, Hugh MacLeod retired as CEO of the Canadian Patient Institute in 2015. Currently, he is an Adjunct Professor of the School of Population & Public Health at the University of British Columbia.

Hugh has recently published his first book 'HUMANIZING LEADERSHIP: Reflection Fuels, People Matter, Relationships Make the Difference' which has been described as 'Candid, concise, and skillfully delivered leadership advice.'


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