The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has invested in the development of health and health care leaders since its inception. In the past, most of its work on leadership development has focused on growing the talent of and boosting the career trajectories for health and health care professionals (e.g., clinical scholars or health policy fellows) or building and strengthening specific fields (e.g., epidemiology or nurse educators).
In order to deftly navigate today’s shifting and highly charged policy and health care environments, and address the complex challenges they present, we realized that leaders will need new skills, approaches, and allies.
The Foundation asked the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) to scan and summarize the field of leadership development. CCL reviewed the research, interviewed experts, and investigated case studies, identifying six emerging trends in leadership development.
Among these was the concept of “moving toward ‘across group’ versus ‘within group’ leadership”—an approach that dovetailed directly with the Foundation’s interests and goals. CCL described this concept as “boundary-spanning leadership,” defined as the capability to create direction, alignment and commitment across boundaries, fields, or sectors to achieve a higher vision or goal (Ernst & Yip, 2009). To RWJF, boundary-spanning leadership emerged as a key way to develop the leadership capacity of its grantees to do their work and solve pressing health and health care problems most effectively.
CCL reported that researchers have identified five boundaries that impede the effectiveness of organizations and systems:
The strength of each of these boundaries, CCL continued, is determined by such factors as:
Any boundary-spanning leadership development effort, therefore, must incorporate concepts, methods, and tools that make cross-sectoral work more successful, increase the recognized value of collective leadership, and provide leadership development opportunities grounded in the complexities of real world experience.