BACKGROUND: Leading and leadership by formal and informal leaders goes on at all levels of microsystems--the essential building blocks of all health systems--and between them. It goes on between microsystems and other levels of the systems in health care. This series on high-performing clinical microsystems is based on interviews and site visits to 20 clinical microsystems in the United States. This fifth article in the series describes how leaders contribute to the performance of those microsystems. ANALYSIS OF INTERVIEWS: Interviews of leaders and staff members offer a rich understanding of the three core processes of leading. Building knowledge requires many behaviors of leaders and has many manifestations as leaders seek to build knowledge about the structure, processes, and patterns of work in their clinical microsystems. Taking action covers many different behaviors--making things happen, executing plans, making good on intentions. It focuses action on the way people are hired and developed and involves the way the work gets done. Reviewing and reflecting provides insight as to how the microsystem's patterns, processes, and structure enable the desired work to get done; what success looks like; and what will be next after that "success" is created. CONCLUSION: The focus on the processes of leading is intended to enable more people to develop into leaders and more people to share the roles of leading.
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