Objective: Although midwifery-led continuity of care is associated with superior outcomes for mothers and babies, it is not available to all women. Issues with implementation and sustainability might be addressed by improving how it is led and managed – yet little is known about what constitutes the optimal leadership and management of midwifery-led continuity models.
Design: Following a systematic search of academic databases for relevant publications, 25 publications were identified. These were analysed, thematically to clarify (dis)similar themes, and lexically, to clarify how words within the publications travelled together.
Findings: The publications were replete with three key themes. First, leadership – important yet challenged. Second, management of organisational change; barriers and enhancers. Third, promotors of sustainable models of care. Complementarily, the lexical analysis suggests that references to midwives and leadership among the publications did not typically travel together, as reported in the publications and were distant to one another, although management was inter-connected to both and to change. Leadership and management were not closely coupled with midwives or relationships with women.
Key conclusions: Midwifery leadership matters and can be enacted irrespective of position or seniority. Midwifery-led continuity of care models can be better managed via a multipronged approach. Improved leadership and management can help sustain such care. Although there was a perceived need for midwifery leadership, there did not seem to be an association between leadership and midwives in the lexical analysis. Many publications focused on the style theory of leadership and the transformational style theory.
Implications for practice: Instead of focusing on leaders and the presumption of a leadership scarcity, it might be more beneficial to start focusing within, looking with a new lens on leadership within midwifery at all levels. It might also be constructive for the profession to investigate a more progressive form of leadership, one that is relational and focuses on leadership rather than on the leader.