This was the session I was most looking forward to. It’s the reason why we blog and the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management Trainee Steering Group did not disappoint.
Considering it was the so-called breakfast slot at 8am, prior to the keynote speeches, Hall 7 at the ICC was impressively full of junior doctors and their trainers. Hannah Baird – chair of the Trainee Steering Group – used her own experience of junior doctor leadership as a springboard to get the audience to explore what leadership is and to reflect upon how we as junior doctors can do it.
Fundamentally the session was disruptive, subverting the audience’s expectations of what leadership is. We were introduced to an unfamiliar definition of leadership developed by Kevin Kruse:
Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.
I love the elements of this definition. It is relational, but it is also synergistic – leaders should bring something out of followers. And finally, it is purposeful, it is about achieving something. One comment from the floor used an even simpler definition:
Leadership Is Achieving Results Through People
Although compelling in its simplicity, it’s not a particularly circumscribed definition because any form of teamwork entails achieving results through people. Moreover, this kind of leadership could be seen as using people as means rather than as ends in themselves. Kruse’s definition treats team members as ends as well as pursuing the goal. I love it.
Start With Yourself
But, even though leadership is inherently social, Baird argued that aspiring leaders should develop their own skills. She passionately rejected deterministic views, suggesting that leadership was not about titles or about innate traits, but that true leadership was a way of acting. Leadership is behavioural.
Behaviours can be learnt. Aspiring leaders can train themselves to use social influence to pursue a goal. These techniques can be developed over time. Later in the day Professor Judy McKimm talked about the Artistotelean idea of phronesis, or practical wisdom. Just as Aristotle believed that practical wisdom could be developed through practice, Baird claims that the practical skills of wise leadership can be learnt. Aspiring leaders should start with themselves.
Becoming a Leader
Reflecting the belief that we are all leaders, the Trainee Steering Group encouraged the audience to begin thinking about developing themselves. Kaanthan Jawahar spoke about the importance of good mentoring, particularly when one has to make career decisions. Baird recommended that asking to shadow a senior manager is a good way to learn about the operation of large healthcare organizations. But the overarching message was that, although we may all be leaders, our routes through leadership will not all be the same. Junior doctors need to take the leadership opportunities that are right for them.
I’m grateful for the wisdom of the FMLM Trainee Steering Group. This conference feels like it is full of CEOs and Medical Directors, but there is a limit on how many people need to do those jobs, many medical leaders will have a completely different set of responsibilities. It follows that different ways of leading demand different ways of training. This talk prompted me to think about getting a mentor whose experience fits with my aims, or shadowing somebody who is leading in the ways I would like to lead. All foundation doctors can be involved in leadership, but we may not all need to develop the same set of leadership skills.
Junior Doctor Leadership – Beginning Your Journey took place on November 15th 2018 and was part of Leaders In Healthcare 2018 held at the ICC, Birmingham.