Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely our own and not necessarily those of our employer or any other occupational therapist.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Leadership Event for Occupational Therapy and Allied Health Professions

If anyone has ever felt slightly out of their depth then read on…… Today we have had Andy Burnham (Secretary of State for Health) speak to students, staff and external guests about his experiences of leadership and his views on what it takes to be a leader in the NHS and social care settings.

Andy was the opening speaker for a seminar series which will continue with speakers related to healthcare in its widest sense but also some speakers specific to occupational therapy and the way in which leadership is essential for occupational therapy to move into the future.

I should clarify that Andy Burnham wasn’t out of his depth during his seminar (!) but he referred to the feeling of progressing in your career into leadership positions and that feeling of being unsure of your position and feeling out of your depth but suggested that in those situations where you are challenged and where you are interacting with people in new circumstances that you are perhaps in the perfect place to develop your skills and confirm your leadership potential.

Andy talked about his experiences of challenges throughout his career and the difficult situations he faces in his current position and made reference to a particularly challenging week. Andy spoke of facing all situations with integrity and speaking about what you know and reinforced that you should never speak about ‘what you don’t know’.

I should also clarify how this came about as to have The Secretary of State for Health to open a seminar series may seem a little incongruous but Andy is my local MP (MP for Leigh) and agreed to come and speak on his constituency day. I completed a leadership development course as a clinician before moving into lecturing and he spoke to my group then when he was a junior MP and it felt right to have him speak as part of leadership programme that I am developing.

I have to admit to feeling a little out of my depth as the event grew nearer due to the status of the speaker but as Andy confirmed in his talk if you have passion for a subject and act according to that passion you have the components of success. I feel passionately that occupational therapists must develop their leadership skills with an awareness of the particular characteristics of the profession. That occupational therapists need to be encouraged to lead but that they should have greater awareness of the types of challenge they face in the NHS and Social Care so that they lead consciously and effectively overcoming professional and gender discrimination.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you! Occupational therapists have rarely been educated or encouraged to see themselves as competent at 'leadership', yet there are quite a few in leadership roles within health systems in NZ. Unfortunately they often lose their occupational therapy identity in the process. It would be wonderful to see leadership and management courses for occupational therapists run within the profession - the 'systems' viewpoint that occupational therapy has is much needed in health management.

Jackie T said...

It was a good seminar. His analysis of his own personal career progression, and self doubts clearly rang true with many in the audience, including myself. I have had so many conversations with (especially mature, female) students who felt that they were someow imposters; that they shouldn't be in higher education; that one day they would get a tap on the shoulder and someone would say - 'you're in the wrong place, you'd better leave'. There's an inner glass ceiling created by these feelings which it takes a lot of courage to overcome. And the biggest weapons in overcoming them, as Andy Burnham said, are your own convictions, values and the belief that you are doing the right thing. This isn't a political blog (is it?), but he is an MP, and he confirmed which way I must vote.

Heather said...

Thanks for your comments. Bespoke leadership development for occupational therapists I think is essential and is something I've been working on for some time - I'm trying to find the right avenue to develop it - watch this space!!

I agree JT - I think that the comments about 'the tap on the shoulder' were very reassuring! I thought alot of what he said will have helped inspire the students who were there.

James said...

I fully agree with you on that the Occupational therapists have exceptionally been educated or encouraged to see themselves as competent at 'leadership', Unfortunately they often lose their occupational therapy identity in the process.

Thanks !

James in a student of occupational therapy university

Anonymous said...

I think leadership is often seen as being "something other" than our core work, as though it was a different job, or different application of just some of our skills.

Healthskills writes about leaders losing their occupational therapy identity in the process.

Thiose appointed to managerial leadership roles are often seen in many professions as having crossed over to the dark side.

Leadership is much more subtle than that though. We all exhibit leadership qualities to varying degrees in what we are already doing.

I love the comment also about the imposter. The imposter syndrome is fairly well documentated and can feel horribly real.

There is alot of very good amterial out there to help in this field. Stephen Covey's 7 Habits is the keystone. It is easily dismissed as being too American, too gung-ho, cod-psycholgy and all of that. I think it provides great food for thought even if I do not subscribe to it 100%.

I have also found "Self-Coaching Leadership" by Angus McLeod to provide a very good introduction to the topic.

Lee said...

It was an inspiring overview from MP Andy Burnham and i agree with JT re older female students, i was sat near a few within the seminar and they were all of similar views when he mentioned the tap on the shoulder, i know from my university experience older people offer valuable life experience for us young ones and the mix of stuydents in the current 3rd year full time cohort has been benficial to me so far. I would like to thank Heather for getting the opportunity for us as OT students to be in the presence of such an inspiring person in Andy Burnham. In terms of the leadership, it is something that needs to be addressed in practice.

James said...


Thanks for sharing this useful article with us. I'm very glad to read your post !

Student of occupational therapy university

J-Teoh said...

I think most ppl in the health professions typically do not participate in leadership roles nor do they see themselves as having to have the skills of a leader, then eventually they find themselves in such a position (even an OT dept head is a leadership position, or even supervising students!) and don't really know what to do. :)

Personally I am participating in the world's largest leadership search and development programme, yet I don't think I am losing my OT identity in the process. Rather, I find that I am a better OT because of it.

And Neil has some good recommendations - I'm a big fan of Covey, and I also read plenty of John Maxwell, Ronnie Kagan, as well as a whole host of others. As for what Healthskills says about leadership and management courses for OTs run within the profession - why not just leverage on existing ones? We can always keep our identity so long as our sense of self is strong enough. :) If anybody is keen on finding out more about the leadership search and development programme I'm on - feel free to drop me a line. It covers 30 countries around the globe so I'm sure I'll be able to help you gain access to it.