Understanding context: an international perspective on Global Healthcare Leadership

4 minute read



  1. the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.

Oxford English Dictionary

Being part of a tight knit group of 40 healthcare leaders from 23 different countries provides a unique opportunity to consider context in healthcare leadership with a truly global perspective. We have travelled from far and wide across the globe bringing our own unique understanding and experience of healthcare leadership.

The world of healthcare is changing rapidly, and radical disruption is now the norm. Alongside exponential developments in, for example, AI in healthcare, there remains the constant crisis of war, poverty, inequity, and lack of access to basic healthcare needs for much of the world’s population. Some of us work in highly developed sectors, some in helping the neediest and disadvantaged and this melting pot of expertise and lived experience is a recipe for radical ideas and solutions.

As we navigate through the first two modules of the syllabus, we have developed an increasingly closer understanding and respect for each other’s perspective, challenges, and context and we are now seeing the common threads that bind us together in the world and the responsibility we have as leaders to deliver for our patients.

In module one, our personality assessment gave us personal unique insights into traits and biases that are shaped by our genetics, upbringing and unique life story; I shared how as a Cancer Surgeon, I used hard power in theatre settings in complex surgery to maintain efficient control and standards, and tried to abandon that leadership style outside the operating room to bring out my inner empathy and emotional intelligence to listen and learn from my patients and colleagues. Meeting the inspirational colleagues in my cohort provided me with immediate context as to how my organisational culture, power dynamics, rituals, myths and stories were so different to those in Bangladesh, Peru or in Honduras where an entire organisation’s funding can be cancelled immediately based on the results of an American Election. My struggles for healthcare technology innovation delivery in my organisation seemed irrelevant compared to the collapse of the Sudanese Health System and initially I struggled to see how we would find common threads of learning from the initial few days of introduction and learning.

During that first week we explored bias, power, influence, organisation design culture and leading change. As we navigated the frameworks and concepts, it became apparent that contextual enablers and constraints were the key considerations of each of our organisational struggles. For our colleague Heba Rashed (Founder of the Mersal Foundation), the constant daily disruptive and uncertain landscape meant she had to react quickly, adapting her organisational strategy almost constantly, leveraging her social media power base to exploit opportunities to raise funds to deliver care on the ground to desperate patients in need – inspiring stuff. No wonder she is known as ‘Super Heba’ in our group. Navigating power imbalances, resistance and influencing change requires a large toolkit – and the wider context is every bit as important as the local one. Module one taught us to zoom out and place our leadership style and model into our own wider context. The global perspective is enlightening and so much of our learning has come from each other’s shared experiences.

Module two developed these themes at an organisational level with scenario planning, strategy, resilience and strategic recalibration, and a peek at alignment and realignment. Setting the stage in which we build strategy by examining our ghost scenarios was an opportunity to share our challenges and visions for our organisations. So much time is spent in the transactional relationships of our organisations and yet the wider contextual factors offer an alternative view of the future in which opportunities as well as threats are hiding in plain sight. Our session with Albert Bourla CEO of Pfizer gave us an insight into how geopolitical power balances can influence the lives of millions of people.

Considering the global context allows us to frame the now and the future with wisdom, and as we move towards module three, I am excited to see my friends again and move forward on this leadership journey together.

Oxford MSc in Global Healthcare Leadership