Phenomenological study of midwifery and leadership

Research in Childbirth and Health Unit (REACH)

Objective: to explore midwives’ accounts of the characteristics of ‘good’ leadership and ‘good’ midwifery.

Design and methods: a phenomenological interview survey. Participants were asked about what made both good and poor midwives and leaders.

Setting: two maternity departments within National Health Service trusts in the North West of England.

Participants: qualified midwives, selected by random sampling stratified to encompass senior and junior grades.

Analysis: thematic analysis, carried out manually.

Findings: ten midwives were interviewed. Sixteen codes and six sub-themes were generated. Across the responses, two clear dimensions (themes) were identified, relating on the one hand to aspects of knowledge, skill and competence (termed ‘skilled competence’), and on the other hand to specific personality characteristics (termed ‘emotional intelligence’). This study suggests that the ability to act knowledgeably, safely and competently was seen as a basic requirement for both clinical midwives and midwife leaders. The added element which made both the midwife and the leader ‘good’ was the extent of their emotional capability.

Conclusions and implications for practice: this small-scale in-depth study could form the basis for hypothesis generation for larger scale work in this area in future. The findings offer some reinforcement for the potential applicability of theories of transformational leadership to midwifery management and practice.

Further Information

Byrom S, Downe S 2008. ‘She sort of shines’: midwives accounts of ‘good’ midwifery and ‘good’ leadership . Midwifery: available early on line.