Being a Coconut Tree: Viewing Health Professions Education leadership through a Pacific lens

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Health Professions Education (HPE) leadership is necessary for success at the individual, team and institutional level. Many leadership theories exist based mainly on Western perspectives, however, Pacific HPE leadership has not been investigated. This research aimed to understand Pacific HPE leaders’ perspectives to develop substantive theory. The theory may guide faculty development in this setting and add a fresh perspective to the international HPE leadership discourse.
Summary of Work
Using an interpretivist methodology, seven HPE leaders were purposefully recruited. Rich Pictures and Zoom interviews were conducted. Participants drew a picture on ‘Being an HPE leader’ and subsequently explained their picture. Codes and themes were interpreted using Miles and Huberman’s approach and further conceptualised into three leadership styles. Member checking was utilised to improve trustworthiness.
Summary of Results
All participant leaders had the common aim of graduating competent and compassionate graduates, however, their secondary aims, strategies and attributes differed. Metaphors were assigned to each HPE leadership style: The ‘Bridge’- helping students from novice to competent; the ‘Coconut Tree’- multiple roles and sturdy in the storm; and the ‘Drua Canoe’ – steering towards the vision.
Rich Pictures allowed HPE leaders to reflect on ‘Being an HPE Leader’ and revealed tacit perspectives. Data interpretation aligned with participants’ perspectives allowing HPE leadership to be viewed through a cultural lens. This study suggests there may be different styles of leadership, in the Pacific context, depending on the aims, strategies and attributes of different HPE leaders. Although specific to the Pacific some aspects may resonate in other contexts.
Rich Pictures with interviews assisted in interpreting three HPE leadership styles in the Pacific context. Leadership in HPE needs to be further explored in other cultural contexts to fully understand the different styles of leadership based on their aims, strategies and attributes. This may have implications for career advice and leadership development.
Take-home Messages
Rich pictures with interviews could be considered for future research to understand the nuances of HPE leadership in different cultural contexts. Cultural styles of leadership within HPE should be considered when designing faculty development for HPE leadership in different contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2022
EventAMEE - Redefining Health Professions Education Together - Lyon, France
Duration: 27 Aug 202231 Aug 2022


ConferenceAMEE - Redefining Health Professions Education Together
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