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Leadership and followership in the healthcare workplace: exploring medical trainees’ experiences through narrative inquiry
  1. Lisi J Gordon1,
  2. Charlotte E Rees2,
  3. Jean S Ker1,
  4. Jennifer Cleland3
  1. 1Medical Education Institute, School of Medicine, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK
  2. 2Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, HealthPEER (Health Professions Education and Education Research), Monash University, Clayton Campus, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Division of Medical and Dental Education (DMDE), School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lisi J Gordon; l.y.gordon{at}


Objectives To explore medical trainees’ experiences of leadership and followership in the interprofessional healthcare workplace.

Design A qualitative approach using narrative interviewing techniques in 11 group and 19 individual interviews with UK medical trainees.

Setting Multisite study across four UK health boards.

Participants Through maximum variation sampling, 65 medical trainees were recruited from a range of specialties and at various stages of training. Participants shared stories about their experiences of leadership and followership in the healthcare workplace.

Methods Data were analysed using thematic and narrative analysis.

Results We identified 171 personal incident narratives about leadership and followership. Participants most often narrated experiences from the position of follower. Their narratives illustrated many factors that facilitate or inhibit developing leadership identities; that traditional medical and interprofessional hierarchies persist within the healthcare workplace; and that wider healthcare systems can act as barriers to distributed leadership practices.

Conclusions This paper provides new understandings of the multiple ways in which leadership and followership is experienced in the healthcare workplace and sets out recommendations for future leadership educational practices and research.


This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

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