Compassionate leadership in palliative and end-of-life care: a focus group study

Alistair Hewison, Yvonne Sawbridge, Laura Tooley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
775 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore compassionate leadership with those involved in leading system-wide end-of-life care. Its purpose was to: define compassionate leadership in the context of palliative and end-of-life care; collect accounts of compassionate leadership activity from key stakeholders in end-of-life and palliative care; and identify examples of compassionate leadership in practice.

Design/methodology/approach: Four focus groups involving staff from a range of healthcare organisations including hospitals, hospices and community teams were conducted to access the accounts of staff leading palliative and end-of-life care. The data were analysed thematically.

Findings: The themes that emerged from the data included: the importance of leadership as role modelling and nurturing; how stories were used to explain approaches to leading end-of-life care; the nature of leadership as challenging existing practice; and a requirement for leaders to manage boundaries effectively. Rich and detailed examples of leadership in action were shared.

Research limitations/implications: The findings indicate that a relational approach to leadership was enacted in a range of palliative and end-of-life care settings.

Practical implications: Context-specific action learning may be a means of further developing compassionate leadership capability in palliative and end-of-life care and more widely in healthcare settings.

Originality/value: This paper presents data indicating how compassionate leadership, as a form of activity, is envisaged and enacted by staff in healthcare.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-279
Number of pages16
JournalLeadership in Health Services
Issue number2
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2019


  • Focus groups
  • Leadership
  • Compassion
  • Palliative and end-of-life


Dive into the research topics of 'Compassionate leadership in palliative and end-of-life care: a focus group study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this