Learning Academy Blog: finding the leader within

28th October 2021

To celebrate the upcoming launch of our Learning Academy – commencing Monday 15 November – we’re sharing a series of blog posts to give you a flavour of what the Academy is all about.

In our second blog post, our Chief Executive, Dr Linda Edwards shares her thoughts on resilience and leadership in healthcare.

The NHS is under immense pressure with the unceasing ups and downs of the pandemic pushing people to their mental emotional limits. Now more than ever there is a need for resilience and stability. In your experience how can individuals step up when they are tired and worn down?

My observation is that many people do not know how resilient they are until they are really tested. Each of us has an innate level of resilience which we can nurture and grow if we choose to learn from our life’s experiences. A great example of this was Nelson Mandela; during his 25 years of imprisonment, he found a way to develop his resilience which ultimately enabled him to become president and lead his country through a period of massive change. He was a true inspiration.

How do you maintain or harness resilience in such difficult times?

This may sound like a trite answer, but I find that reflecting on what has happened, how I feel and what I can learn from the situation really helps to grow my resilience. Having been an NHS clinician, an NHS leader and now a charity leader I have had plenty of opportunities to learn and grow my own resilience. Standing back and looking at a situation, seeing it from other people’s viewpoints really helps get perspective and from perspective grows tenacity and resilience.

What are your strategies for staying positive and yet realistic when the rules keep changing and there is so much uncertainty?

One thing I know in life is that there will be change. We are born, we live, we grow, we age and so on… I see change as a form of energy which can be used to support or deny us. If we reflect on how we feel about any situation and what we can learn from it, we are growing our resilience. I know that whenever I have been faced with what seems like an insurmountable situation, I have come out the other side the better for it. Granted it may not have felt like that at the time but looking back the biggest opportunities to grow and thrive have come from being in a situation where there was no obvious solution. My motto at these times is ‘This too will pass’. And you know what? It always does!

What do we need to do to ensure our best selves show up?

Now that is quite a question! First of all, not everyone knows they have a best self; however they do know that they have better days and off days. In my early days of studying psychology, I learned one thing that rocked me to the core. ‘Everyone is making the best choice they can given their experience and the specific circumstances’ Really? Yes really!

That blew me away but once I started to view situations through that lens things became very different. The penny dropped, if someone was angry or tearful it was the best choice they could make at the time. I may not appreciate their behaviour but it was the best they could do. Once I accepted that I stopped taking things personally and grew more resourceful myself.

How do you stay authentic?

I know I am not perfect, that’s one of the joys and challenges of being human. This quote from Mary Sarton sums it up “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” When we are not authentic others see through us, by being authentic we more easily build trust. Once we have trust we can work through challenges together. By being myself, I am being true to myself and everyone else.

What happens if you don’t have the answers?

No one person can have all the answers, no matter how experienced they are. I find that the best way to identify a solution is to talk with the people involved. Engage people at an early stage, seek views and then when you make the final decision explain the rationale. That way even if people don’t like the answer they understand and have had the opportunity to have their voice heard.

Where do you go for support as a leader?

Being a leader can be very lonely, but it can also be very rewarding if you take people with you. Building a strong team means that together you lead, there may be times when you have to stand up alone, but knowing you have a good team behind you can give you the strength that you need. Ironically the pandemic really strengthened the cohesion of our leadership team here at EfH. We meet twice a week and make key decisions together, ultimately the responsibility is mine but together we are stronger.

However, it is also important as a leader to have a safe place to go to share some of the internal conflicts and challenges. Finding a great coach or a group of peers with whom you can have very open conversations is a real life line and reality check when you need it most.

Free leadership webinar:

As part of the Learning Academy launch week, Dr Edwards will be joined by Simon Phillips, Founder of The Change Maker Group, to continue this discussion on leadership. This free one hour webinar begins at 1.00pm on Tuesday 16 November. Topics will include: building resilience, internal dialogue and building your personal leadership approach. Visit the launch webpage to find out more about joining the session and all the online events taking place.

Leadership courses:

Our Learning Academy currently provides a workshop focusing on Leadership skills to improve care and practice. More information about this course can be found online. Keep an eye out for new leadership education and training coming soon.

Our next blog post:

Look out for next week’s blog post, where we’ll be exploring tools to support practices with the profiling of patients with long term conditions.