What does the road to leadership look like in the community and primary health care ecosystem? Working with the consulting firm, Optimus|SBR, we set out to answer that question and better understand the career pathways in our ecosystems.
What we found, not surprisingly, is that there is significant variation in the career pathways of leaders in the community and primary health care sector. That said, most leaders fall into one of three main categories: Steady Progressors, Career Switchers, and Experience Gatherers.
We also found that, whatever category they may fall into, all leaders move along career paths that require similar key competencies for success. Leaders leverage tools, supports, and resources to develop or enhance their key competencies as they move through their career progression.
Steady Progressors grow from front line service delivery or functional areas through increasing levels of responsibility and leadership. They usually spend their career working within the same sub- sector, often with the same organization.
These leaders often have deep subject matter expertise in a particular health domain.
Career Switchers transition into the community and primary health care sector after starting their career in an unrelated sector (e.g., financial services, technology) often after a life- event or another trigger (e.g., lived experience, sick parent or child, starting a family).
They often have leadership experience and management skills but may require additional support to learn about the community and primary health care sector. They may move into front- line service delivery or directly into management positions.
Experience Gatherers move between the community and primary health care sector and broader health domains and adjacent sectors (e.g., acute care, long-term care, education, social services).
These individuals spend their career taking on increasingly more complex roles and responsibilities, returning to the community and primary health care sector as an executive. They often have valuable system-level perspective on the health system and help transfer knowledge and values between different sectors and domains.
Just as a diversity of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds enrich our ecosystem, so does a diversity of career pathways.
Steady Progressors may bring a depth of subject matter expertise, Career Switchers can offer fresh perspectives and new ways of thinking, and Experience Gatherers may be particularly well-positioned to lead system transformation.
What the Optimus|SBR research makes clear is that, from the point of view of organizational and system-wide development, our sectors are best served by recognizing, supporting, and facilitating a variety of pathways to leadership, as each offers something unique to the leadership pool.
This research also suggests that there is value in thinking about leadership from a system-wide perspective. While one organization may feel the loss when an Experience Gatherer moves into another role in another organization, the system overall benefits from having people with experience and relationships across the board.