Challenges in Global Health: The Complex Art of Leadership

Working in the field of global health can be challenging, as LSHTM alumni are well positioned to know. The complex nature of health ecosystems, cultural boundaries, socioeconomic context, changing landscapes and imbalanced power relationships are a few of the many daunting hurdles leaders within the global health community encounter as they strive to improve the well-being of vulnerable communities.

Experience within the context of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in particular, emphasized the urgent demand for professionalism and integrity within the health sector. Lack of leadership – we learned during the outbreak – can have disastrous ramifications, especially in already challenging settings.

There is a call within the global sphere for strong, dynamic, competent leaders, who are skilled to navigate political and cross-institutional contexts. There is much work to do in leadership, across all levels of health systems. Global health leadership is not evenly distributed, nor is it sufficiently representative. As a recent WHO report outlines, while women comprise as much as 70% of the health workforce in many countries, they remain largely segregated into lower-status and lower-paid jobs.[1] Even more critical, the empowerment of local leadership needs to be at the top of the health agenda, ensuring context-specific effectiveness and long-term sustainable change to the health of affected populations.

Ensuring that effective and resilient leaders are recruited is the key priority. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is committed to addressing this need through the Executive Programme for Global Health Leadership. Launched in 2017, this programme brings the ‘art’ of leadership to health. This programme helps build values and principles of leadership, while ensuring that leaders work across all sectors, through all levels of the health system, so that at the top, with their vision, leaders are able to empower and motivate individuals across the system right down to those who are delivering health at the front-line to affected populations.

The programme runs over 10-months, including three dynamic residential weeks with partner institutions, in London, Geneva and Cape Town, inter-residential activities, coaching and mentorship.  It is designed for emerging and established health leaders who can demonstrate leadership roles in their work.

We encourage you to nominate a Fellow to the Executive Programme for Global Health Leadership by sharing the news with your health leader colleagues and contacts who you think might be interested. We are committed at LSHTM to improving global health leadership. We are currently recruiting for September 2019 and would be delighted to answer any questions you might have regarding our programme – please do not hesitate to contact the Programme team at .

Here are some reflections from our former Fellows, now alumni and members of the Executive Programme Fellowship of health leaders from around the globe.

“I would not have been able to do my job, had it not been for this programme. I’ve done lots of great things; this is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I can quite honestly say it has changed my life.”
Mrs Penny Walker-Robertson, Head of the Fleming Fund for AMR, Department of Health

This experience has been an opportunity of a life-time.
Mrs Molly Guy, Head of Health Innovation and PolicyMedtronic Labs

What has been great about the course so far is the combination of the theoretical concept of leadership and how to apply them, real exposure to people with real leadership position in global health at the moment, together with an excellent group of classmates – we don’t have two people from the same country or background in our cohort. It has been a fantastic experience.
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control

This [residential week] has been the most important week of my life.
Dr Mya Maw, Health Adviser, DFID Burma


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[1] WHO, Delivered by Women, Led by Men: A Gender and Equity Analysis of the Global Health and Social Workforce, Human Resources for Health Observer – Issue No. 24.


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