07 Mar 2019
Leadership is a behaviour, you don’t need to be in a management position to drive change and demonstrate true leadership.
During my early career in the NHS I picked up on a gap in services, and worked to fill this. I identified a niche, developed services, generated demand, and evaluated progress. To do this I had to use effective communication, influencing, organisational and project management skills. In addition to building my knowledge and expertise in community gastroenterology. I built the trust of those around me (managers/colleagues/consultants/GPs) by always being honest and transparent. I felt a strong sense of purpose, and I was able to articulate the importance of a collective sense of mission. Despite the barriers I came across I maintained a positive outlook, and worked to overcome these, whilst continuing to express that the vision could be achieved. I had drive, determination, and ambition to make a real difference in improving patient care. I demonstrated leadership holistically as a band 5 dietitian.
I have only learnt this about myself recently. These were just behaviours that came naturally to me, it was just me being me. I didn’t appreciate that such behaviours attributed to leadership skills, all I understood was what I had achieved for the department I worked for.
After encouragement from my line manager, I applied for the Chief Allied Healthcare Officer Award for leadership in 2018. The reason I selected this category was simply due to the fact I “led” on developing services. I simply described what I had done to establish a dietitian-led community gastroenterology service. To be honest, I had applied quite flippantly and didn’t expect anything to come of it. So, when I received an email informing me I had been shortlisted and invited to the ceremony I was quite taken aback. I went along thinking it would be a nice evening; a chance to catch up with a dietetic colleague who had also been shortlisted, free nibbles and drinks, and a free AHP conference the next day. That was my incentive to go, as never in a million years, did I imagine I would win such a prestigious award. In fact, I nearly didn’t go.
I won! I’m still totally overwhelmed by the whole thing to this date. But it was winning this award that taught me that leadership is a behaviour and a skill set, not a job title.
The reasons for winning were explained to me. I had won not only for leading on setting up a new service with good clinical outcomes; I had won because I had demonstrated behaviours of leadership very early in my career as a band 5 dietitian and created myself a band 6 role. Winning the CAHPO Leadership award opened up doors of opportunity for me…I now work as a policy officer for professional practice at the BDA. It is fantastic to be able to draw on my eight years of experience gained working for the NHS, apply my leadership skill set to influence dietetic practice, forward the profession, and support members.
If you recognise any of this in yourself, consider applying for the CAHPO leadership award this year! Or browse the other categories to see if any others resonate with you. As dietitians, we can be very modest in our achievements, skills and expertise. Be bold! And recognise your awesomeness!