From relationship orientation to task orientation: On the digitalization of clinical leaders
This paper studies how clinical leaders perceive their leadership tasks in the context of virtual interactions. We ask whether distant leadership involves a shift from relationship orientation to more task- and control-oriented leaders in hospital settings. We explore two cases involving 10 clinical leaders in a university hospital in Norway. The study indicates that the leaders were aware that lack of direct communication hampers relationship-oriented leadership, which weakens efforts to develop a common identity in the clinics. The absence of direct communication reduces opportunities for relationship-oriented leadership, which may hamper the development of social and self-controls in professional organizations. However, clinical leaders are dependent on professionals’ social and self-controls to perform at high levels. Large distances reduce leaders’ ability to build personal relations with their staff. On the other hand, professionals in healthcare are highly educated, and thus they are to a large degree self-governed. The possible effects of distant leadership may consequently not be that harmful in clinical settings.