By Joanna Teece, Dietitian, NHS Fife (@JoTeeceRD)
One of my strengths, or weaknesses, is that I find it hard to totally switch off from work. It’s a huge part of me. Being passionate about food and health is what I enjoy. I guess I am lucky that the lines between my work and how I choose to live and enjoy life can merge.
Rewind to October. I was at home, recovering from an injury, with the luxury of time, great wi-fi and a too tempting remote connection to my work e-mail. There it was sitting in my inbox, would I like to write a blog on leadership?
My husband immediately laughed and said, but you don’t have anyone reporting to you anymore. The kids agreed, Mum you’re just a Dietitian, that’s not a boss. So that was that. Very quickly I’d soon made my mind up to explain why you don’t need to be a boss or have people reporting to you to show leadership. I’d like to keep the day job, so I should quickly caveat that statement with, of course you can still be a boss, have people reporting to you and show leadership.
So what is leadership?
Like many things in life, it’s often easier to say what leadership is not.
I feel Leadership is a life long journey. We start young, from being a Sixer in Brownies, to Captain of the School Hockey team, a member of the Sixth Form Council, Course rep at University, part of the Residents Association, Playgroup committees, Parent Teacher Associations, the list goes on. We learn and draw on these life experiences and soon start to see and feel the difference between success and failure. It can be dependent upon so many factors. A clear goal and vision that we can coach, nurture and support each other towards is key.
Leadership, I guess, can mean different things in different situations. Leadership styles, like life, can change depending upon the environment.
Within the workplace, clear leadership can guide patients towards a shared goal or outcome, for example loosing or gaining a specific amount of weight over an agreed period. Patients may come to you, expecting as the expert that you will “tell” them what to do. However the most successful outcomes for both the patient and professional are often achieved when we don’t dictate but work collaboratively. Listening and working in partnership, leading, guiding and supporting the patient to make the desired changes to reach their goal.
Professionally I believe leadership is integral to innovation and change. Having the self awareness to recognise our strengths and weaknesses to combine forces and work collaboratively but sometimes we just need to take that jump on our own into the unknown. Being resilient is then key, if things don’t quite go to plan.
I’ve recently completed the NES e-health leadership course. You may presume this means I can now pull a snappy definition of leadership out of the bag. We did indeed explore some theories and models of leadership for example, the Ladder of Inference, the Roffey Park Resilience model and looked at the white paper around future trends in Leadership Development.
What was more powerful for me was the reflection on what influences our leadership and the set of management skills and techniques we need to support influencing, coaching and delivering a vision. As a group we spanned a broad range of clinical areas and grades across health, social care and the third sector and set off on our leadership journey together. We completed an individual project, sharing our learning and coaching each other along the way. We had a common goal of wanting to succeed with our projects and putting e-health on the map. Listening and reflecting and working together as a cohort gave us a bigger voice. A passion and inspiration for what we could achieve. I was one of only two Dietitians on the course, a small fish in a large pond. Dietitians like many AHPs have a key strength of being strong effective communicators which is key to leadership. This strong network of support was strengthened by innovative communication, for example signing up and linking together on Twitter. This was a bold brave step into the unknown world of using social media in a professional capacity. Pushing boundaries became less of a challenge.
So what does makes a good leader?
I went back to my primary school age children.
“It’s not the oldest or tallest or biggest or richest or poorest or smallest. It’s helping people, and that people trust you. It’s not always making sure you’re the boss of everything.”
So recognising leadership does start young!
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’ll leave you with mine;
What makes a good leader? A leader;
Learns from mistakes, leads by example
Establishes a clear vision
Acheives their vision through working with a group
Evolves as situations and environments demand
Respectful to others and is respected
Steps into the unknown
Helpful listening ear
Innovative and inspiring
- Resilence : http://www.roffeypark.com/resilence_capability_index/
- Nick Petrie (2014) Future Trends in Leadership Development: White Paper, Centre for Creative Leadership http://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/futureTrends.pdf