Find out what is meant by medical leadership and how you can develop your leadership skills at medical school.
What does leadership mean for doctors?
Leadership is about setting a direction and motivating others to embrace it. Doctors and other health professionals are at the frontline of healthcare and have a vital role to play in the leadership and management of others.
When you qualify as a doctor you’ll be expected to develop your role as a leader. At medical school you’ll be given every opportunity to acquire these skills.
As you’ll work in multidisciplinary teams (MDTs), you’ll need to accept the leadership of others who have more expertise and experience than you. However, if any leader makes a decision based on poor information, you should be able to challenge them to achieve a good patient outcome. As you develop through your career, your leadership role will gradually increase.
The Medical Leadership Competency Framework helps doctors develop their leadership skills. This has been embedded in medical school and postgraduate curricula. It involves:
1. demonstrating personal qualities – developing self-awareness, managing yourself, continuing personal development and acting with integrity
2. working with others – developing networks, building and maintaining relationships, encouraging contribution and working within teams
3. managing services – planning, and managing resources people and performance
4. improving services – ensuring patient safety, critically evaluating, encouraging improvement and evaluation, and facilitating transformation
5. setting direction – identifying the contexts for change, applying knowledge and evidence, making decisions and evaluating their impact
The Healthcare Leadership Model has been developed for all healthcare staff. It establishes nine dimensions of leadership behaviour:
1. inspiring shared purpose
2. leading with care
3. evaluating information
4. connecting our service
5. sharing the vision
6. engaging the team
7. holding to account
8. developing capability
9. influencing for results
Your leadership behaviour will affect the culture and climate you, your colleagues and teams work in. It also affects the experiences of patients and service users, the quality of care provided and the reputation of the organisation.
The Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management (FMLM) is developing new standards of medical leadership drawing on aspects of the Medical Leadership Competency Framework and the Healthcare Leadership Model.
During your undergraduate and postgraduate training, you’ll have lots of opportunities to develop your leadership skills (eg by leading project groups) but there are other things you can do to enhance your skills and learn about leadership. Here are some examples.
- taking the lead in an audit or certain aspects of an audit
- becoming a committee member eg on the British Medical Association (BMA) Medical Students Committee or being involved in your local student parliament
- shadowing a healthcare manager
- doing various activities through your student-selected components (SSCs)
- taking an online course in leadership (free to students) through the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Open School, getting involved in an IHI chapter and/or attending an IHI conference
- being actively involved in a society, such as Medsin, or setting up your own
- getting involved in teaching activities. One way of doing this is by becoming a National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Student Champion – this scheme aims to improve the use of evidence-based information and involves running peer teaching activities
- asking for 360 degree feedback (ie feedback from everyone involved with something you’ve led)
- British Medical Journal (BMJ) article Medical leadership: why it's important, what is required, and how we develop it
- The King’s Fund report The future of leadership and management in the NHS: No more heros
- Leadership for Clinicians e-learning resources
- The Health Foundation – a charity working to improve the quality of healthcare in the UK