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Letting Go... of Control Requires Bold Leadership

Summary: In any large-scale change effort, participation and ownership by critical stakeholders is critical. For leaders who embark upon high engagement strategies, this means letting go of control. INOVA Healthcare System was embarking on a comprehensive, patient-care redesign effort. In addition to improved patient experience, leadership wanted a more flexible, agile organization capable of adapting to multiple demands, changing expectations, and advancing technologies. They did not want a parallel structure of authority, but wanted to tap the talent in their system. To make ownership and empowerment happen, dependence or counter dependence on authority has to be continually reconciled. Initial distrust concerning the motives of leadership gave way to anger and anxiety as familiar patterns and expectations were broken. Staff expectations of leaders and leaders' inclinations toward over-responsibility are powerful influences. Staying distant from the actual work while staying connected to the process is challenging. Letting go of control and truly engaging others in meaningful ways requires a different mindset and different actions. It also requires courage.

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  • Author: Aronson, Nancy; Mastorovich, Mary Jane; Arsht, Beverly
  • Journal: Journal for Quality and Participation