Exploring the role of leaders in enabling adaptive capacity in hospital teams – a multiple case study

Birte Fagerdal, Hilda Bø Lyng, Veslemøy Guise, Janet E. Anderson, Petter Lave Thornam, Siri Wiig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Resilient healthcare research studies how healthcare systems and stakeholders adapt and cope with challenges and changes to enable high quality care. Team leaders are seen as central in coordinating clinical care, but research detailing their contributions in supporting adaptive capacity has been limited. This study aims to explore and describe how leaders enable adaptive capacity in hospital teams. Methods: This article reports from a multiple embedded case study in two Norwegian hospitals. A case was defined as one hospital containing four different types of teams in a hospital setting. Data collection used triangulation of observation and interviews with leaders, followed by a qualitative content analysis. Results: Leaders contribute in several ways to enhance their teams’ adaptive capacity. This study identified four key enablers; (1) building sufficient competence in the teams; (2) balancing workload, risk, and staff needs; (3) relational leadership; and (4) emphasising situational understanding and awareness through timely and relevant information. Conclusion: Team leaders are key actors in everyday healthcare systems and facilitate organisational resilience by supporting adaptive capacity in hospital teams. We have developed a new framework of key leadership enablers that need to be integrated into leadership activities and approaches along with a strong relational and contextual understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number908
Number of pages17
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Adaptive capacity
  • Hospital managers
  • Leaders
  • Organisations
  • Patient safety
  • Quality
  • Resilience
  • Risk
  • Teams

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