Navigating contemporary healthcare leadership − insights from WHC 2023 Plenary Session 1

Date:  21 December 2023

Navigating contemporary healthcare leadership − insights from WHC 2023 Plenary Session 1

Following the general trend in the labour market, the healthcare sector is undergoing rapid and profound changes. Plenary Session 1 of the IHF’s 46th World Hospital Congress delved into critical leadership aspects essential for addressing contemporary healthcare challenges. Here are the key takeaways from this session.

Embracing empathy and ethical values

To maintain a team’s morale, leaders need to be authentic and show empathy. By deeply understanding their team’s needs, they foster loyalty and trust from both staff and patients. With the rise of technology and social media, ethical values are also vital to ensure transparency and reliability in all aspects of management.

“In this changing world, we need to adapt. We need to be authentic. We need to be true to ourselves.”

Dr Muna Talak
President, IHF, CMO, Dubai Academic Health Corporation, Vice Provost Clinical Affairs, MBRU, and CEO, Latifa Women & Children Hospital (UAE)

Prioritizing inclusivity and cultural sensitivity

An inclusive environment ensures that the different perspectives of healthcare professionals contribute together to patient care. Welcoming and respecting all cultures has shown positive results on health outcomes, patient experience and hospital operational improvement.

“We need to empower our local leaders. We need to simplify. We need to trust our people.”

Prof. Dr Björn Zoëga
CEO, Karolinska University Hospital (Sweden)

Balancing technology with human interaction

While technology is increasingly important and useful, healthcare serves people. It is crucial to maintain human interactions at the core of healthcare so technology supports our work and does not detract professionals from the personal touch with patients.

Continuous education and succession planning

Ongoing education and leadership development are key to train future leaders. As more leaders are educated in relevant current topics, our sector will become more resilient to crises, ensuring the sustainability, continuity and growth of responsible leadership in healthcare.

“We need to be like a cheetah. We need to be agile. We need to be purposeful.”

Dr Zeenat Sulaiman Khan
Regional CEO, Aga Khan Health Service (Tanzania)

Equity in healthcare

Geographic and social disparities in healthcare delivery is concerning. We need to take innovative action to ensure that all patients have access to quality care in all regions, by building new partnerships or exploring new funding sources, for example.

Leadership in crisis situations

Leaders are expected to quickly adjust to changes and take action when necessary. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that effective crisis management involves quick decision-making and close engagement with staff and patients.

“During the pandemic, it was very important for us to be present, to communicate effectively, to be with our teams.”

Mr Artur Vaz
Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer, Luz Saude (Portugal)

Data-driven decision making

While personal engagement is central to healthcare, taking effective decisions also relies on data. As shown during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to monitor data to make the best-informed leadership choices and maximize healthcare efficiency.

“Leading a public academic health system involves a complex interplay of healthcare delivery, education, and research.”

Mr John Haupert
President and CEO, Grady Health System (USA)


The experts in this Plenary Session offered several insights into the challenges of their healthcare leadership experience. They also presented ideas and concepts for current and future healthcare leaders to ensure that our sector remains resilient, efficient and sustainable. The roadmap is clear and it is the responsibility of all leaders in healthcare to make it a reality.

If you attended the World Hospital Congress in Lisbon, you can listen to the recording of this session by logging in to your WHC mobile app account here until the end of February 2024.

Written by:

Katherine Bennett

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