| 24 November 2023
Sharon Nash, Senior Consultant in Leadership, Management and Organisational Development at Skills for Health participated in a panel at Nursing Live to discuss ‘The Future of Leadership in Nursing’. We asked her to share some key insights from the day and explore some of the common themes that arose.
It was both inspiring and empowering to be part of the panel at Nursing Live, alongside Winnie George, National Programme Lead (Retention) at NHS England, Paul Jebb, Associate Chief Nurse, Patient Experience, Engagement & Safeguarding at Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, and Coumarassamy Marimouttou, Deputy Chief Operating Officer (BSMHFT) and Founder & Chair of the British Indian Nurses Association.
As the audience settled in, the energy and anticipation was palpable. There was so much to explore – inclusion, compassion and leading well in a profession that generally represents the largest percentage of the NHS workforce.
Themes from the panel discussion
As the panel shared their personal stories of leadership, common themes emerged, such as: being our authentic selves, what it means to be an inclusive leader, and overcoming barriers relating to difference. We also spoke about how to lead teams under scrutiny, with kindness and compassion, whilst creating accountability.
There were some powerful, dynamic, and challenging exchanges with the audience on issues of racism, inclusion, and compassion. The following topics really resonated with me.
The impact of racism on our overseas recruited nurses. Recruiting overseas nurses is a critical element of the NHS long-term workforce planning strategy, and still there is more to do to integrate new nurses into our workforce, into our communities, and to recognise their experience by appointing them to a level in the pay band that is commensurate with that experience. It was acknowledged that preparing overseas nurses to take up roles in the UK needs to go well beyond the established programmes of pastoral care. More is needed to educate communities about the value of our overseas nurses, to tackle incidents of racism from patients and colleagues, and to upskill those leading nurses in practice, especially clinical team leaders, so that they are adequately equipped to lead multi-cultural teams.
Inclusive leadership and breaking down barriers to progression. We heard a moving story from one of the panel members, who was offered training to try and change his accent after applying numerous times for a promotion. These are some of the real barriers that others experience because of their difference. There is a need to help leaders to understand and appreciate differences, and not let that be a barrier to progression when an individual is ready to take the next step. It was also acknowledged that good progress is being made in the inclusion space, through established Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Networks, through the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Improvement Plan, and with BAME representation in senior nursing roles gradually increasing. There is much more work to do, and we can only make changes by continuing to have the discussion about inclusion and working together to find solutions.
The role of compassionate leadership. We explored the need to be compassionate with ourselves first before we can be compassionate with others. Compassion was identified as treating others how we ourselves want to be treated, with kindness and respect. It involves genuinely caring about each other, noticing when someone is going through a tough time, offering support, and fostering a sense of unity and teamwork where people value and look out for each other. We discussed our role as leaders in that, to create the conditions for teams to work well together, acknowledging that we can be compassionate whilst holding others to account.
The impact of regulatory scrutiny on culture. Regulatory scrutiny can stifle creativity and innovation, creating a sense of powerlessness and anxiety. In the wake of the Countess of Chester hospital case, that impact needs to be recognised, and as leaders we need to be ready to offer support whilst being alert to ensure that quality of care is maintained. We touched briefly also on the subject of vulnerability, recognising that acknowledging our own vulnerability as leaders can help to reduce anxiety in others and help to create the conditions for growth and development, even under regulatory scrutiny. Caspar Craven, a thought leader and inspirational speaker, in his recent book, ‘Be More Human’, acknowledges the flawed nature of human beings and calls for leaders to let go of thinking that we know everything, and have the courage and vulnerability to set ego aside and embrace what makes us human.
The importance of allies and role models. Each panellist reflected on individuals who have been influential in their lives. A common thread that emerged was around having critical friends or coaches who challenge us to let go of the stories that we hold about ourselves as leaders – and make space for new stories to emerge.
It is no coincidence that the theme for this Nursing Live event was ‘Your time to thrive’. The Nursing 2030 vision aspires to a nursing workforce that is prepared for the future, able to meet people’s needs, who have a strong, powerful, collective voice. We believe that can only be achieved through a radical rethinking of what nursing leadership needs to look like, and a dynamic workforce plan to deliver that vision of helping others to thrive.
I am left with two things. The first is a nagging narrative; who does leadership serve, really? We all want to make a difference in this world, and sometimes our personal ambitions can get in the way of remembering that we are here to be of service to others.
The second is an overwhelming sense of privilege, to be working with the NHS and a profession full of bold, passionate, and diverse nurses, at all levels. Caspar Craven advocated that we only have one distinctly human competitive advantage as we grapple with a fast-moving disruptive world, and that is the extraordinary skills of our teams. Let’s continue to lead and nurture them well, and grasp every opportunity to evolve nursing leadership, as the world around us continues to evolve.
Sharon Nash is a Senior Consultant at Skills for Health and an award-winning Organisational Consultant, Leadership Coach and a specialist in behavioural science. She draws on decades of leadership and cultural transformation expertise and a well-constructed working knowledge of the psychological barriers to change in organisations If you would like to continue the conversation about the future of leadership in nursing, please find the contact details of the panel below.