A place to talk leadership

A place to talk leadership 

Originally posted by Elaine in May. To read more of Elaine’s blogs click here

I was invited to deliver the prestigious College of Occupational Therapy (COT), Dr Elizabeth Casson Memorial Lecture at this years conference on the 19th June #COT2013.  I relooked at the literature from COT and was reminded the lectureship is a prestigious honour and the nominee “should be an outstanding professional with the ability to inspire an audience”. On reading this I was filled with pride, delight and also sheer terror and still not sure when this feeling goes – maybe on the 20th June.


So how do you prepare for a lecture that is likely to have an audience of over 500, is published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, is worthy of a “rehearsal” and a photograph an hour before the lecture and is also filmed on the day.  I decided to do what I have done over my career – read, research, reflect and have meaningful conversations with colleagues and friends. It is the “conversations” that I am going to focus on in this blog and invite you to inform the final content of my lecture.  I started by speaking to three previous Casson lecturers Claire Ballinger, Ann Turner and Anne Lawson-Porter.  I would have spoken to more but time dictates what you can do.  All were generous in their time and advice, giving me lots of hints and tips.  However if I was to sum up what they said I could capture it as:

  • Be proud and enjoy doing it
  • Put humour in it
  • Be clear what you want to say

They also highlighted in their preparation they spoke to groups of students and colleagues.  What I decided to do was to have a group conversation in #OTalk.(otalkocchats.wordpress.com/about/about-us/)  #OTalk was set up in 2011 by a group of (innovative) occupational therapists who I have only recently become aware of, who every Tuesday at 8pm host a weekly chat #OTalk (occupational therapy) or #Occhat (occupational science)  and have kindly given me the time to do #OTalk on the 28th May with the support from ClaireOT.(phew)

leadershipMy topic for the hour long conversation is “leadership” in occupational therapy.  My Casson Lecture will outline the current context for leaders, why leadership is important and the belief that leadership is critical for effective change in the context of service delivery. However to inform the #OTalk here are some of my ideas:

  • management and leadership are different but complimentary
  • leadership can be the responsibility of all grades of staff
  • a relevant model for occupational therapy leadership is transformational      leadership
  • we need leaders in occupational therapy to facilitate strategic change

There are many definitions of leadership and much of the literature debates that management and leadership are different which I am inclined to agree with. I come from a position of the distinct but complementary roles of management and leadership and find the definitions included in the leadership development strategy (Scottish Government 2009:5) as helpful:

“Management (transactions) is about coping with complexity. Without good management organisations become chaotic in a way that threatens their existence.  Leadership (transformation) is about proactively enabling change through people”.

I also believe that leadership “can come from anyone within your organisation” and is not restricted to people who hold designated management and traditional leadership roles and is in fact most successful wherever there is a shared responsibility for the success of the organisation, services or care being delivered.” (NHSLeadershipAcademy2013).

handThere are many leadership theories that can provide frameworks on which occupational therapy leaders can base their practice however for the purpose of this #OTalk and my Casson I will focus on transformational leadership.  The College of Occupational Therapy recently developed an occasional paper on clinical leadership and it notes transformational leadership is used to refer to a leadership style that focuses on interpersonal and influencing skills rather than on task orientation. (2013:7)  Wylie & Gallagher (2009) write that transformational leadership represents a way of valuing leadership that describes leaders behaviour in developing emotional attachments with followers and other leaders, thus improving performance and supporting change within their teams (p66).  However, which ever model is used Stewart  (2007) writes “we need leaders with the skills to match their behaviour to the situational expectations of the organisation: to find the “best fit”, to influence their followers and to facilitate strategic change in order to sustain effectiveness”. (p233)

I welcome comments from you on:

  1. what are your thoughts on what I have outlined above for current and future leaders in occupational therapy?

AND for #OTalk on the 28th May

  1. what does “good leadership” in occupational therapy look like?
  2. how do we build leadership (confidence) capacity and capability in occupational therapy?
  3. what can social media offer leaders in occupational therapy?

twitter 2 Follow the Elaine Hunter twitter account


Ballinger  C 2012 The Effectiveness, impact and legacy of occupational therapy British Journal of Occupational Therapy 75(8)  350-358

College of Occupational Therapy 2013  Education Briefing 1 – Clinical Leadership  Occasional Paper www.cot.org.uk

Lawson-Porter A  2009  Rethink, reimagine, and refocus British Journal of Occupational Therapy 72(7)  286-293

NHSLeadershipAcademy2013  Leadership Framework  www.leadershipacademy.nhs.uk/discover/leadership-framework/

Scottish Government 2009 Delivering Quality Through leadership NHSScotland Leadership Development Strategy June

Stewart LSP  2007  Pressure to lead: what can we learn from the theory? British Journal of Occupational Therapy  70(6)  228-234

Turner A  2011  Occupational Therapy – a profession in adolescence?  British Journal of Occupational Therapy 74(7) 314-322

Wylie DA  Gallagher HL  2009  Transformational Leadership Behaviours in Allied Health Professions  Journal of Allied Health 38(2)  65-7


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