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Leading in systems

Leading in systems

Developing systems thinking and leadership practice

Systems leadership is essential if integrated, personalised care and population health are to be prioritised in line with the NHS long term plan, to improve services and the lives of people who use them.

What is systems leadership development and who is it for?

Systems leadership development uses the principles of systems thinking to enable leaders to tackle some of the most complex challenges in 21st century health and care.

Development interventions are designed to support leaders – individually, collectively and at every level in the system – to practice and embody the following behaviours:

  • Focusing on processes as well as outcomes and impacts
  • Basing the work on strong, trusting and honest relationships
  • Leading confidently in uncertain, ambiguous and volatile contexts
  • Seeking out diverse views from people who use services and local communities and maximising the potential that different perspectives can bring
  • Allowing for experimentation and risk taking
  • Being able to adapt to, listen to and see others’ perspectives including those of people with lived experience.
  • Connecting, networking and building communities of learning and practice
  • Collaboratively designing a vision, purpose and strategy
  • Influencing, collaborating and building partnerships
  • Mediating existing power relations and hierarchy
  • Fostering ethical and sustainable change across the system

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance and effectiveness of systems thinking in order to improve services and population health. In addition to this, the focus on building relationships across systems is more crucial than ever as we move towards a space of digital and virtual working.


Useful tools, resources and thought leadership to encourage and develop systems thinking.

Systems thinking resources

Expert seminar series

Designed to catalyse collective action for Executive Leaders on current health and care priorities, the offer comprises an expert seminar series supported by half-day action learning sets which meet three times over six months to translate ideas into practice.

Our first AfC theme will be on The Politics of Leading Integration, comprising four seminars with:

  1. Raj Jain, Chief Executive of Northern Care Alliance NHS Group with Local Authority colleagues, on 23 March 2021, 15.30-18:00 (please note the new time).
  2. Three NHS Chief Executives:
    Cara Charles-Barks, Chief Executive, Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust; Stacey Hunter, Chief Executive, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust; Kevin McNamara, Chief Executive, Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (27th May 2021, 16.15 – 17.30)

Further details and booking are available

Our offer

Whilst we offer system leadership support at all levels, we have significant experience and understanding of the unique challenges that senior system leaders face.

We offer bespoke consultancy and a wide range of locally co-created development interventions and programmes, all aimed at helping senior leaders in systems work more confidently and collectively to deliver shared goals. Our offers can also include working closely with the Primary Care and System Transformation team to identify the most relevant support available, including the Integrated Care Learning Network and System Leaders Days.

Through our tailored offers, we work with teams in organisations, communities and place-based systems to deliver whole-system transformational change.

Our process is one of working in partnership to:

  • Determine the right intervention
  • Identify the ambition and the measures of success
  • Talk through the possibilities
  • Implement and deliver
  • Evaluate against the objectives set at the outset

This work isn’t formulaic. It can take a degree of experimentation to find the intervention that works best, but the Academy will work with you throughout the process, and beyond that, for as long as our support is needed. We’ll help you to identify future needs and support you as your systems leadership work evolves and progresses.

Non-urgent advice: We’d like your feedback

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