Health Services Research & Development

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2007 HSR&D National Meeting Abstract

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National Meeting 2007

3098 — The Role of Social Networks in Leadership Effectiveness

VanDeusen Lukas C (Center for Organization, Leadership and Management Research) , LeVan RZ (Center for Organization, Leadership and Management Research), Meterko MM (Center for Organization, Leadership and Management Research), Sullivan JL (Center for Organization, Leadership and Management Research), Lin H (Center for Organization, Leadership and Management Research)

It is widely recognized that leaders of healthcare organizations exert strong influence on their organizations’ performance. However, the dynamics of that influence are not fully understood. One promising model for understanding this is social network theory, which posits that inter-organizational networking is beneficial because it builds relationships that lead to useful alliances and exposes leaders to innovative practices and technologies. Our hypothesis is that VA medical centers led by individuals who are more active in social networks will have higher organizational performance – measured by staff assessments of operational effectiveness – than those led by individuals with fewer outside contacts.

We conducted secondary analyses of VA national databases. Social networking (SN) variables came from the 2005 VHA Inventory of Organizational Characteristics (N=136 medical centers) and were defined as number of national committees in which members of the facility quadrad (director, COS, nurse executive, associate director) participated in the previous year. Summary SN scores were created for quadrad members individually and in aggregate. Organizational effectiveness (OE) was measured by employee assessments on 7 validated scales from the 2006 VA All Employee Survey (AES, N=149,628 VA employees, response rate=70%). Multivariate analyses of variance were used to test for differences in OE among facilities grouped by SN levels.

We found no support for the study hypothesis for aggregated quadrads, but good support for the COS individually, with significant variation among COS SN groups (p<.05) on 5 of 7 scales (customer focus, civility, management for achievement, internal job satisfaction, and external job satisfaction).

COSs universally play critical roles as clinical leaders in VA, yet the specifics of their roles vary across facilities. One dimension on which they differ is their involvement in external social networks. Our analyses suggest that higher involvement may be beneficial to the medical center as well as to the COS. The study opens new avenues for promising research on the dynamics of this association and its extension to clinical performance.

Understanding aspects of COSs’ functions and behavior that are associated with higher organizational performance will provide tools for improving the management of VA medical centers and ultimately improving care for veterans.