Recognising leadership in the work place

Recognising leadership in the work place

As an organisation that hopes to exemplify great leadership practice, our purpose is to work with individuals and organisations to deliver excellent leadership across the NHS. We know that great leadership leads to better patient care, experience and outcomes. But to achieve that we need to start by modelling that philosophy and ensure that our employees are happy and looked after. This is difficult in a work environment where, like every other work environment, we encounter a combination of diverse personalities, viewpoints, expectations, communication issues and conflicts. This means it’s critical to get different people to work effectively as a team and increase work place productivity and job satisfaction. All this can only be done by motivating employees and letting them embrace their strengths to become a better leader.

We look at an organisation’s characteristics like an iceberg. While on the surface it appears like the mission statements, strategies, policies, and the corporate structure guide the successful running of an organisation, it’s below the surface that the real drivers lie. The emotions, aspirations, fears, frustrations, passion – it’s these underlying currents that really steer any organisation. Frequently, and sometimes quite unintentionally, the emphasis on these ‘below the surface’ unquantifiable, but tangible imperatives gets diluted while running an organisation. But we know that the greater the alignment between the top and the bottom, the higher the probability of being a successful organisation that listens and respects its people.

The leadership role
The prevalence of avoiding responsibility and decision making, absenteeism, blaming others for lack of delivery, downplaying the importance of uncompleted work, or assigning undue importance to relatively unimportant work are all signs of an unhappy employee. So how do you combat these issues and how does leadership play into all this?

The answer is simple. Take your employees more seriously, make them feel empowered and valued, and show trust in them.

At the NHS Leadership Academy, we take our employees and their health and well-being very seriously. Ensuring engagement, support and understanding their motivation and drivers are keys to a successful solution. We ensure our employees are ‘looked after’ and are involved in the solution by investing in them and giving them training and learning opportunities to enable them to fulfil their potential. 

We’re all leaders
Leadership is not equivalent to a specific position or job title. True leadership is the ability to influence people to achieve a better result for a common cause – which can be for the organisation or wider society. The most effective leaders have a strong sense of self; they understand the qualities that make other people want to follow them, and they know how to adjust those qualities when circumstances require them to do so. The most effective leaders are those who instil trust, anticipate and manage conflicts fairly and objectively, inspire others to reach their full potential. So how do you unlock and tap into your staff’s leadership capabilities?

More training opportunities
As an organisation that offers outstanding leadership programmes to health and social care, we also offer the same to our employees. As a starting point we encourage all our employees to enrol in our leadership foundation programme – Edward Jenner.

The Edward Jenner programme is an open access, online learning package that will support individuals as they develop essential leadership skills. It is open to all and leads to an NHS Leadership Academy award in Leadership Foundations. It has been designed with health and care staff, for everyone working in a health and care context. Highly practical and patient-focused, it’s a great way to understand the purpose, challenges and culture of the NHS. It’s flexible and enlightening, helping people get a fresh perspective on the impact they have on the patient experience – either directly or indirectly.

We also run a range of internal workshops, group coaching, personal and professional development and mentoring. Our talent management resource is offered externally, just as much as we share it to external organisations, and we encourage true and honest feedback. The tools, programmes, resources, and healthcare leadership model are offered to empower staff and reinforce the fact that the work they do has a direct impact on the wider healthcare service.

Stephen Flynn, an Edward Jenner participant, said: “The Edward Jenner programme has helped me reflect on how I relate to other people in the work environment, and how I can develop strategies to allow me to lead authentically and with conviction. It has shown me that leadership is present at all levels and can be practiced by anyone regardless of their role.

“Doing Jenner has been a thought-provoking and rewarding experience, helping me realise that even small acts or changes can make a huge difference to the system and patient care.”

Diversity in leadership
Diversity in leadership leads to improved health and greater experiences of the NHS. An inclusive workplace that understands the needs of its employees makes them feel valued and respected. It has a significant and positive impact on employee retention.

Global research suggests companies that hire a diverse workforce, speak and educate staff about the power and need for inclusion tend to appeal to the wider system and people. As a national organisation, we support the evidence that diversity in leadership leads to improved health and greater experiences of the NHS. We welcome the challenge of making significant changes and supporting staff members from black minority and ethnic (BME) backgrounds to move into leadership roles. This means that as a service we would be better able to support a diverse patient population in the future.

There are countless benefits to building a diverse and inclusive workforce at every level of a company, not least the need to address a looming retirement crisis by pulling in talent from historically under-tapped demographics. We have regular inclusion and diversity workshops and inductions to educate existing staff and new staff about the importance of diversity, fair representation of workforce and inclusive leadership. This is a preventative measure used to increase awareness and avoid discrimination and the wider system – all of this directly impacts the staff culture and our organisational culture and value.

Care in, care out
Investing in leadership and staff wellness is crucial as it is the glue that holds the organisation together. In healthcare, happy and well engaged employees have a direct influence on patient care and excellent patient experience leads to low mortality rates. So what we do and how we treat our staff is crucial.

When you think about it; when a patient receives an excellent healthcare service, that not only makes a difference to them, but their neighbours, family, and ultimately their community and the society at large. To maintain staff morale and well-being, we have a designated health and well-being team who ensure the smooth running of physical and mental fitness activities throughout the year. Through such activities, we strive to be a beacon of best practice in all areas of leadership development and are committed to ensuring we develop a workforce that is fair, diverse and fully representative of those we both serve and employ.

All managers are not leaders, but every leader is a manager. So the goal should not be to make everyone happy or despondent, but to understand how to capture individual talents and get the best out of each contributor. Instead of focusing on what it takes to be a successful leader, if individuals focused on how their sphere of influence will grow then there will be a wider impact on their career and the organisation.

Ultimately the NHS was conceived as a result of a social movement. It was to create quality, change the society and make people’s lives better, and that is what the NHS Leadership Academy does every day. It’s about our vision for a better society, more inclusive, equal and fair for everybody. But the ultimate challenge lies in the implementation.

As we all know behaviour change takes time and is different for every individual but when reinforced consistently, it is possible that with the help of different programmes, multiple touch points, strong leadership, and an unwavering commitment your employees will start feeling differently about wellness and what it means to them and feel more valued.

The process is simple – empower your staff because they make all the difference.

The focus of the NHS Leadership Academy is to ensure that leaders in all parts of the system are properly developed with the skills and knowledge to achieve the ambitions of the NHS.

Further information