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Developing leadership and management skills - a nursing perspective

Posted by Ann Caluori | Tue, 28/06/2022 - 13:02


Guest blog by Sharon Woodhouse OBE LLM MSc RGN RM Committee Member


I have been involved in occupational health (OH) since 2001, qualifying as a Specialist Practitioner OH at Masters level in 2004. I am currently a senior OH Specialist Nurse Practitioner at Cordell Health. My leadership experience has been based around my OH career - the biggest challenge building a brand new OH service.


To do this I built a peer group and a network around me; while a new role is challenging, it is about having the right support around you. Whether you attend as many meetings as you can and go to conferences, you need to get that network of experience and skills.


Confidence comes from the right knowledge and skills

I would advise any nurse wanting to develop their leadership skills to step back and appraise any situation, rather than jumping in feet first. Use the experience around you in your decision making. One of the things that enabled me to be a better leader, and to take others forward, was about having the right knowledge and skills. Doing my medical law degree hugely advanced the way I practiced and the way I practice now. It is about having the right knowledge and skills to then become that leader yourself, rationalise what you are doing and bringing people into your group and sharing your skills and experience. Having those skills and qualifications makes you more confident at putting it into practice. And then you can share those skills with others and build their trust.


Making hard leadership decisions

I have had to make some tough decisions as a leader. You must be honest and make hard calls. At some point you will have to face a group of people and justify why you are taking your course of action. Having the research and evidence base really helps people understand where the decision is coming from.


Making your voice heard

I was recently asked why it is that while 90% of the nursing profession are women, we only fill less than a third of leadership positions? My experience is that you must be robust and resilient. It is about behaviours and the way you cope and manage. You must fight to be heard and you must be strong. I think that nurses are reluctant than doctors to put our head above the parapet, but it takes confidence to bring our voices to the discussion. But being resilient is not something you can just teach people. A lot of us just get on and deliver, and we have teams around us that put in the hard work too.


Leadership is about building engagement

The work behind the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers that led to my OBE was a real struggle. We made sure they were going out to some sort of employment in another field, in another occupation. We had to build engagement within Westminster at ministerial level and gain buy-in. If you want your voice heard as a leader, you also must find the time to listen to people. That is an especially important leadership skill.