Leadership, what a massive topic and a really hard subject to write a blog on; it may be easier to write a book! However, being asked to write this blog has really made me think about the different aspects of leadership, of being a leader – so different from being a manager and not something I think people can be taught. I believe it’s something that people who are leaders have within them. However, that said, there is the ability and often the need to learn how to be better leaders and develop skills which will allow this to happen such as coaching, mentoring, self-awareness, understanding team, understanding compassion, listening skills and so on.
There are so many different leaders – leaders of organisations, teams, projects, community groups and churches, there are global leaders and political leaders, the list is never ending. I can think of several leaders who have inspired me like Martin Luther King. Is there something that is common to them all? Is it that their ability to inspire those they lead to engage in a realistic vision and the skill to empower people to reach that successfully through positive inclusion and participation?
A leader does have to:
- Set a clear vision – direction
- Share that vision in a way that others will follow – inspire
- Provide ideas and methods in order to realise the vision – knowledge
- Be able to balance conflicting ideas and interests and reach the best outcome possible – influence and negotiate
- Be a good decision maker, especially at times of crisis – accountable
I think this quote about leadership says it all
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent” Douglas MacArthur
I have tried to look back and see where my leadership journey started. If I’m honest I think it started way back when I was quite young and well before I started on my career. I have always been quite a shy person so being a leader was not something that I thought I would naturally aspire to be. However, whether it was in Brownies, Guides, in church youth groups or whatever situation where a leader was required I seemed to be one of the ones who could see where the group needed to go, have an idea of how we could get there or be able to bring together ideas from others involved and form a cunning plan! Interestingly, during that time I also learnt very quickly that there are challenges with being ‘the leader’ and that you are not always everyone’s favourite person.
My career as an occupational therapist led me in to leadership. Others saw that in me and encouraged me to take on roles locally and nationally and over time I have changed and developed my style of leadership as I’ve understood the needs of people and organisations better. Currently as head of improvement support for the Care Inspectorate I lead a team, I lead programmes of improvement, I am a senior leader for the organisation and I lead on the subject of improvement for the organisation. All of these roles require me to use different skills to make sure my leadership is as effective and authentic as it can be.
I’ve been thinking a bit about ‘compassionate leadership’. Not a term often come across but more and more being written about. In May of this year The Kings Fund wrote a briefing on it called ‘Caring to Change’ you can read it here: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/caring-change
It suggests that more compassionate leadership can help to stimulate innovation in care and gives some examples about where this happens now and how this can flourish. This type of leadership stops us from relying on those seen as leaders to find solutions by encouraging others to respond with their ideas. This also helps teams to perform better together. In order for this to work well it requires compassionate leadership at every level in an organisation where all leaders model openness and transparency and an appreciation of the people they lead.
Are you a leader? If so are you a compassionate leader? This may be something you want to think about. If those of us in positions of leadership or those aspiring to be leaders decide to take this approach think about how transformational it would be.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” John Quincy Adams
Edith Macintosh (@EAMacahp)
Head of Improvement Support