The Central Cheshire CCGs have worked with the North West Leadership Academy and AQuA to put on a Clinical Leadership Development Programme. I was fortunate enough to be asked to provide an introduction, and thought I would pull my thoughts together into a blog for you.
I started with an intro about myself and our local health issues, the financial challenge and the need for clinical leaders. I’m not going to replicate that bit here, but I then talked about three people who have recently had significant anniversaries, and considered some leadership lessons from them. From the photos, everyone recognised The Queen, a few recognised Ernest Shackleton (but all had heard of him), but only one or two recognised Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (and only they had heard of her).
Little introduction is required. HM Queen Elizabeth II had her 90th birthday this month and must be one of the most famous people in the world. She has lived her life in the public domain more so than any previous British monarch, and the Information Age has been responsible for this.
It is worth remembering that she never thought she would be Queen. Her father was never expected to be King until his brother abdicated. Nevertheless, she did not shy from the role and took it on. This in itself bears consideration – just when you are at your lowest, grieving your father’s death, is when you are thrust into your role as Queen. She is unable to have anything significant happen to herself or her family without it being splashed across the world’s media. Just think on that for a moment – if your children’s marriage breaks down, or if your daughter-in-law tragically dies in a road traffic accident, how do you manage that? You manage it in relative obscurity, you can deal with it as you choose, quietly if you prefer. The Queen has no such choice. In fact, you will probably remember the criticism she received following the death of Diana.
When you lead, you open yourself up. When you lead, you will be subject to criticism.
Something else. By my count The Queen has undertaken at least 114 international state visits during her 64 years on the throne. That’s a lot of small talk. It’s a lot of smiling, shaking hands, waving and talking about the weather. I think it’s a lot more than just small talk though. It’s about representing your country, advocating, smoothing things over, relationship building and relationship maintenance. These are all essential attributes of leaders. You need to spend time collaborating and working with others. External networking is key. I think the Queen is probably pretty good at that.
I will move on now, but first leaving you with this quote from Her Majesty.
“I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.” ~ HM Queen Elizabeth II
This year marks marks the 100 year anniversary of the rescue of Shackleton’s crew in the Antarctic. I’m hoping you are already familiar with the story, but will give a brief description as I understand it. Shackleton wanted to be the first person to cross Antartica from coast to coast. You may have heard of the advert he allegedly placed in the newspaper when looking for men to join him – “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honour and recognition in case of success.” ~ Ernest Shackleton. Unfortunately there is no evidence that Shackleton actually placed such an advert, but it does give you an idea of the challenges he faced.
Things did not go well for the expedition. The ship, Endurance, became trapped in the ice. Shackleton hoped that the spring thaw would release them and enable them to continue, but instead the movement of the ice as it started to thaw damaged the ship, which eventually sank. The crew had already abandoned the ship by then, and were camping on the ice. It was hoped that the ice flows would drift them towards land, but this did not happen, and eventually they took to the life boats and endured an open sea voyage to Elephant Island – an uninhabited rock far from any shipping lanes, with no hope of rescue. After establishing a camp here, Shackleton and a handful of men set off on a further open sea voyage in one of the life boats to South Georgia. Here they completed a hazardous land crossing of the island to eventually reach a whaling station, and organise a rescue trip for the remainder of the men.
My re-telling does not really do proper justice to the scale of what was achieved and endured. I would suggest you do you own research if this has piqued your interest.
Shackleton was known as an unusual leader for his time. Someone willing to do any job, adopting a person-centred approach to leadership. During one of the sea crossings he gave up his gloves to one of his men, resulting in Shackleton himself suffering frostbite.
Shackleton was calm in adversity, did not overreact, and was known for his ‘calm and reflective demeanour’. I cannot emphasise enough how important this is for a leader. To be seen as someone who will always be measured, confident and calm. Leaders who are reactive and display their stress and mood-swings are very difficult to work with. Shackleton demonstrated a key leadership trait in my view. A mantra I try to follow when I lead, particularly when doing so publicly, is to lead with ‘confidence and joy’. Not always easy when you are not feeling joyful!
A quote from Shackleton before we think about Garrett Anderson:
“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.” ~ Ernest Shackleton
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was a remarkable woman.
She was born on 9th June 1836, so would have been 180 last week. I will quote from Wikipedia:
“Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, LSA, MD (9 June 1836 – 17 December 1917), was an English physician and suffragette, the first Englishwoman to qualify as a physician and surgeon in Britain, the co-founder of the first hospital staffed by women, the first dean of a British medical school, the first female doctor of medicine in France, the first woman in Britain to be elected to a school board and the first female mayor and magistrate in Britain.”
Wow. If you’ve never heard of her before, now’s the time to remember her name and what she achieved. She endured continual opposition to her quest to become a doctor. After applying to various medical schools, and being rejected by them all, she worked and trained as a nurse. From what I can gather she essentially just went along to the medical student teaching, learning about anatomy and medicine. She eventually became a member of The Society of Apothecaries, which at the time was a route to becoming a physician. She then became a member of the BMA, and set up consulting rooms in London. While business was initially slow, with people being suspicious of a female doctor, the outbreak of cholera meant that patients soon became less picky about who their doctor was. Her practice and reputation then grew, and the rest, as they say, is history.
It should be noted that as soon as admitting her, The Society of Apothecaries immediately changed their admission rules, closing the loophole that allowed her to join, and thus preventing any other women from joining. The BMA likewise immediately voted to refuse membership to any other women.
How must this have felt, and how did Garrett Anderson deal with this. I can only presume with significant personal resilience and great tenacity. She clearly had a vision of what she wanted to achieve, and continued to pursue this in the face of opposition. Another great leadership lesson.
A quote from her sums up her approach I think:
“I think he will probably come round in time. I mean to renew the subject pretty often.” ~ Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
So, what have we learned. I think a few simple things, which I will sum up in a list of words. They are characteristics shared by leaders. We can see them in the lives of these individuals. We can learn a lot just by observing and taking note of what we see.
I wonder, can you see these traits in the people you look up to as leaders? Can you see those traits in yourself? We can all learn, we can all change. Examine yourself – do you need to move to develop any of these? The good news is, you can.
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