Considerations for getting started

Considerations for getting started

To get started with a core leadership structure, strategies are listed below in the following five categories to reflect the structure’s functions as both an inward- and outward-facing team: 1) building the core leadership structure; 2) shared leadership; 3) learning to work together; 4) engaging staff and others in the change initiative; and 5) managing risk and building trust.

1. Building the core leadership structure – who do you need?

A core leadership structure requires a group of individuals with a broad range of knowledge and skills. Consider the following individuals for your core leadership structure:

  • Those with direct experience of the shared concern and/or strongly desired change, and/or their allies. This could include point of care staff as clinical content experts.
  • Independent thinkers with unique perspectives.
  • A key influencer - a highly connected individual to staff and others, as determined by peers.
  • Role models/advocates of evidence uptake and sustainability.
  • Highly trusted and credible individuals.
  • Strategic thinkers with skills in areas, such as framing to position issues and promoting the collective narrative of the social movement.
  • Those whose approach to change embodies the values of inclusivity and democracy.

Those in formal organizational roles (e.g., director of care, project manager).  

2. Shared leadership:
  • Understand the benefits of a shared leadership model as well as the challenges, such as additional time demands, ‘growing pains’ of a learning curve of the leadership model, and how the model functions.
  • Appreciate those core team members who are not familiar with a shared leadership model may initially struggle; tensions may develop regarding the team dynamics, roles and responsibilities.
  • Engage individuals’ knowledge and decision-making to create equitable partnerships and trusting relationships amongst the team members.  
  • Seek to have a balance of power, mutual respect, trust and transparency amongst the team. Appreciate that pooling strengths, capacities and resources will lead to a synergy that strengthens the team as a group, versus as individuals.
  • Promote collective agency; engage the shared knowledge and skills to effect change and the courage to lead it. 
  • Establish, at minimum, some degree of power and autonomy to make decisions in areas such as recruitment strategies, framing, use and deployment of resources, and/or planning individual and collective action.
3. Learning to work together:
  • Establish a means of communication within the team to share ideas and updates such as a group email or Facebook page.
  • Have documented roles and responsibilities and a code of conduct to support team functioning and manage expectations.
  • Take time in meetings to support the core structure team as a living community with group relationships, morale, and group cohesion.
  • Develop key messages regarding the shared purpose or desired change and the core values to build alignment amongst core structure team members.
  • Be flexible regarding the structure, role and function of the team taking into consideration what works best in the local context.
4. Engaging staff and others in the change initiative:
  • Share the key messaging of the shared concern or desired change and the underlying values publicly with staff and others through communication channels.
  • Emphasize staff and others’ central role in relation to the shared concern or desired change and their active engagement as crucial to achieving goals.
  • Forge new relationships to support the recruitment of staff and others to build a critical mass.
  • Welcome staff and others’ ideas and vision and be willing and able to pivot and reconsider priorities and actions.
  • Establish a means of communicating so that others can reach members of the core structure team and have opportunities for dialogue and discussion. For example, a shared hashtag can act as a forum to share ideas, raise awareness and build a collective identity
5. Managing risk and building trust:

With any change process, including those using social movement actions, there can be perceived risks that need to be managed by core leadership structures. This can be especially true if social movement actions are an approach not used before and there is a degree of perceived uncertainty or concern.

To manage risk, trust must be built. Strategies to manage risk and build trust in change teams may include the following:

  • Acknowledge any previous failed and successful attempts at change, lessons learned, and how these experiences can be used to inform the current change initiative.
  • Discuss the risks anticipated with making the change versus not making the change, how these will be managed, and the implications if the change fails.
  • Build trust among the members of the change team by developing the competencies needed for the change, and respectful working relationships.
  • Focus on the three key factors that drive trust: 
  1. logic (i.e., having sound reasoning and judgment),
  2. authenticity (i.e., being genuine and trustworthy), and
  3. empathy (i.e., caring for others).
  • Take active steps to avoid eroding trust. Trust developed in organizations and within change teams is complex, fragile and easily shaken because of the multiple and conflicting messages and goals from staff, and the interactions between and among inter- and intra-professional groups.

Watch for causes of trust breakdown including:

  • Inconsistent messaging (e.g., not ‘walking the talk’ or following through on priorities).
  • Inconsistent standards (e.g., bending rules, favouritism).
  • Ignoring or tolerating problematic individuals (e.g., concerns regarding competence, negative attitudes, or meanness to others).
  • Offering false or dishonest feedback to save face.
  • Micromanaging due to a lack of trust in others. 
  • Ignoring the ‘elephant in the room’.

SOURCES: Bate et al., 2004a; Blueprints for Change, undated; Carson-Stevens et al., 2013; del Castillo et al., 2016; Galford & Drapeau, 2003; Grinspun & Bajnok, 2018; Klaus & Saunders, 2016; Sustainable Improvement Team & the Horizons Team, 2018; Wynn et al., 2011.    


 Accelerate Your Success: The Knowledge-to-Action Framework’sIdentify the problemaction cycle phase includes strategies for how change teams, as core leadership structures, can work together effectively. As change processes can be complex requiring  diverse knowledge and skills, members of change teams must become efficient at working together to be able to reach their goals. Visit Tools | to find out more.