‘Not the cry but the flight of the wild duck leads the flock to fly and follow’ (Chinese proverb quoted by John Adair,1989). The following paper aims to give a reflective account of my own strengths and weaknesses as a manager and ways in which I have developed as a leader of others. Whilst discussing both of these roles I will identify ways in which my understanding of leadership and management, during my journey, has made me grow as an individual. During my nineteen years within the National Health Service, I have found myself in many positions. I was always a member of the flock who followed others and never really had the chance, until recently, to show my true potential as a leader and a manager. I have been privileged to be part of a large organisation that has been through many change programmes and modernisation initiatives. During this time I have witnessed and seen many challenges faced by leaders who have had to manage staff to enhance the delivery of patient care. This paper will also look at the way a managers own strengths and weaknesses can have an impact on a task and the way in which they manage and lead others in achieving joint goals and objectives; with the added ability too involve those to receive the credit they deserve. Knowing my own strengths and weaknesses as a leader and a manager is the only way I can grow as an individual and to become the wild duck, as Adair (1989) quoted above, and lead others into the new changes.
In order for me to discuss the various leadership and management approaches, discussion will take place on a recent management project I was involved in too radically change the organisations induction programme. This enabled me to manage the administration, facilitation and co-ordination of a number of tasks and the recruitment of key individuals who would form a working group, whom I would lead. Reasons will also be given on why Adair’s Action Leadership model (1989) was used and why this model helped me to understand my own responsibilities as a manager and how it helped me to utilise an individual’s capabilities and strengths within the team.
To quote from Bird (2009)
“Leadership is about taking people on a journey that they might not have taken before or made changes they wouldn’t have made before. To make these changes, people need confidence, reassurance, protection, resources and belief that the change is worth their discomfort. This is how good leadership will improve the NHS”.
However the point made by McKenna (2009) is that he sees that leaders need to give commitment in developing the ability of staff and to embrace the opportunities these challenges offer. He illustrates this by saying
“In seeking the right blend or balance of staff there is a challenge in leadership to think more creatively where the NHS will find the skills and talent that is needs to make this transition”.
My aim is to aspire to this innovation and to continue to adapt to the ever changing demands of the service and in turn, become a good manager and leader.
In order to assess my strengths I needed to identify the areas I am most competent in. I would consider myself as a well organised person with a daily never ending action list. I have been told by my colleagues and peers that I am creative and I have a skill in making tedious, often repetitive tasks into time saving solutions. I also try to adopt a Lean Approach within my daily work-life, which looks at making the very best of limited resources and to adapt accordingly.
Another strength I have is the ability to adapt to new environments and situations. This strength allows me to be flexible and comfortable when talking with many different levels of people. Part of my current role is to meet and train new members of staff during their induction and to talk to them about the importance of the Lord Darzi’s paper, The NHS Constitution (2009) brings together the principles, values and rights and responsibilities that determine the way the National Health Service acts and makes decisions. It notes that there is a need to have high quality leadership at all levels of the organisation and this is clearly noted within a previous report, A High Quality workforce (2008) where there is a firm focus on developing leaders, to make change. National Health Service staff provide a wealth of new ideas and look at ways of making things better. It is innovation from these staff that promises genuine improvement to levels of care and to patient experience. It is only with strong leadership that these ideas will ever come to surface. It is the leaders of the National Health Service who can and must create a culture in which this innovation is nurtured.
However, one of my greatest weaknesses is being a perfectionist. When I complete a task I do it in a methodical way, until I am satisfied it is right. When working on a group of projects I have a tendency too get frustrated when others do not put forth the same level of effort as I do. Often this forces me to loose patience with those who do not share the same ideas or level of dedication. I see this as a huge weakness of mine and should appreciate that every individual is different and do not work to my level. I need to realise that I need to have a multi-skilled team with varied skills and attributes top make any project a success. I agree with Chua (2010) that even though it is good to plan and prepare there comes a time when I should let things go and deal with problems when they crop up.
There have been times where I have difficulty in dealing with criticism. I realise that the best way is to learn from it, rather than letting it hurt my feelings. When I first joined the National Health Service I experienced anxiety when put in stressful situations which was mainly down to the fear of the unknown and inexperience I would be asked to undertake disciplinary action for staff whom I had just recently managed and only known for a few months and many a time I would feel I was being criticised for not doing it correctly. I was being made aware of the policies and procedures, such as sickness, annual leave and maternity policies, within a very short space of time. This was daunting in itself as I was new to the job and as a Manager and I was expected to act differently and to become more responsible and take the necessary managerial action with staff whom I had only just started to manage.
However, as I matured and progressed, I found that my confidence overshadowed the anxiety and I was fully more aware of the expectations my superiors had of me. I am aware that this kind of pressure and anxiety is likely to resurface when dealing with any future policy issues but I now know that I have the abilities to overcome this weakness. As identified by Blair (1993),
“When you gain managerial responsibility, your first option is the easy option: do what is expected of you. You are new at the job, so people will understand. Those extra little “management” problems are just common sense, so try to deal with them when they come up. “
By managing the Trust Induction programme I was given a valuable opportunity to lead on a project where a complete change of the Doctors induction programme and its processes would take place. The programmes aim was to introduce new colleagues to the vision for the National Health Service; helping them to develop an insight into the Trust and its community health needs and to create a sense of teamwork and institutional loyalty. I agree with Stanton and Lemmer (2010) who saw that Induction to the National Health Service is a rite of passage for every staff member starting their new job and can be seen as uninspiring. From reviewing previous induction evaluations and programme agendas, new staff value information when they start a new job. The team’s goal and overall aim was to make induction better than in previous years and to look at ensuring there was a radical overhaul in the way in which new staff were inducted to the Trust.
As a leader and a manager it was identified that it was paramount that I needed to set up a working group and to involve the right individuals, to enable delivery and succession of the programme. Unfortunately, I came across a number of stumbling blocks and it was clear from the start that the project was going to be more of a challenge than I first anticipated. I was a new Leader and never had the experience of such a large task which involved a large number of individuals whom I did not directly manage. I was aware that I needed to include departments whom I had never met before, speak to Senior Managers and key presenters to ensure that all were involved in the programme. Being new to this particular organisation involved me being out of my comfort zone as I did not know the staff well. I needed to liaise with my line manager on who the best contacts were to help me, to help me to complete my task. I needed to identify what the project plan was and what was the best model to use.
Tuckman and Jensen (1977) developed a concept based on a Forming-Storming- Norming-Performing model. The model looked at defining the task in hand (Forming), ironing out any hostility or conflict and resistance ( Storming), work through the difficult bits ( Norming) and then started to get things done ( performing). Unfortunately as I had an urgency to get the task done this model would have been too complex and time-consuming as I needed to get the task done within a limited time. I needed a basic model that could work within the working group in ensuring the best possible outcomes, were achieved.
Adair (1989) looked at leadership and management as two separate distinctions. He saw leadership as inspiring and motivating people to work willingly and build and maintain teamwork but he saw managing as organising, establishing systems and controlling. However, both were two sets of skills essential to the running and completion of a project. Adair identified that leaders are expected to help in order to achieve a common task and to respond to individual needs. Adair based this theory on a three-circle model called Action Centred Leadership.
The reason I used this model was that it fitted into the project well. The three circles were named as task need, Individual need and group need. This model worked well, as the three circles overlap and influenced one another. If the common task is too achieve then that tends to build the team and to satisfy personal human needs in individuals. Allen( 1997) also agreed with this in that he sees that good leaders should involve others in their preparations. He went on to say that encouragement and praise those who are working with them will make the project successful. However, Adair stated that if there is lack of cohesiveness in the team circle then a failure of team maintenance then clearly performance in the task area will be impaired and the satisfaction of individual members reduced.
For each circle my role is identified clearly. The task need was the first circle which needed to be explored. I had to be realistic about the objective of the task.
I needed to be assured that I was clear about the objectives being set and were within a realistic timeframe and that I understood the wider aims and purpose. I also needed to have trust with all of those whom I was leading and to be able to obtain swift feedback of results and be capable of success. I needed to delegate work in such a way that would give the group a chance to learn and develop their own skills and abilities. I also knew I had to become a listening leader. I feel that communication is a key skill in leadership and that listening is co-equal in importance. I am aware that everyone within the team has something to contribute to the programme and its execution and without this contribution the team would never have been successful.
The second circle was referring to team maintenance and I am aware that different people in a team act in different ways and rather than trying to change roles I need to recognise their strengths and weaknesses which would have a considerable dynamics on the team and took at a way of managing a taking in a different way. I realise that you do not always have the luxury of fitting individuals into a team easily. Team size is important for effective decision making go with a smaller team to develop and involve representation from all key areas of interest, identifying who are important members and who will have impact on moving forward. The key team players involved in the project included Directors, Clinical Leads, other departments and Divisions whom I had no management authority over.
However, all of these members, including myself, depended on each other too successful run the project. I needed to show how I could manage those whom I did not have direct managerial responsibility for and become a leader at the same time.
There was a need to consider the range of resource demands such as time, staff availability and expertise, finance, IT capacity, accommodation of training, as identified by the NHS Leadership Qualities Framework (LQF) (2004), “it is important to fully scope the resource requirements of the project and try to assess the time that will be needed for implementation.” Trying to keep a balance to energise the process but avoiding overload on already busy people was certainly a challenge in itself.
The final circle I needed to understand more about was the individual needs and team satisfaction. As a manager I believe in Theory Y of McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y (1960). I fount that members of the working group realise they are responsible and willing to do work, but did not work well with those who do not feel this about them. I found that many of them fell into the Theory X category making the passing of the project that much more difficult. They developed an inherent dislike to induction and would avoid being involved, where necessary. They would put up barriers and disagree with the change and that any motivation occurs only at the physiological and security levels of Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy (1943) who believed that human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs, and that certain lower factors need to be satisfied before higher needs can be satisfied.
During my time as a manager and a leader it is difficult when you have members who are not helping or committed which in turn has a negative impact on the rest of the group. I agree with Palmer (1998) who argued that the three levels of Maslow’s triangle must usually be satisfied before you can start to motivate individuals.
I was faced with a number of dysfunctional teams as they were extremely unhappy with the change taking place, as it affected their current working practices. They had their own goals and expectations and sometimes this lead to them adopting a riskier strategy rather than steering towards completing a task. I was aware that I needed them because they were knowledgeable and knew how to work with the in-turns I was going to face, so their contribution was vital. I believe that as a leader I needed to make a good first impression and the impression I make will stay with people forever. By sharing my vision, my spirit and passion and determination to succeed I Knew I could change the climate and standards of the group. I felt that at times this resolved in me becoming a tough talker and committing to my actions before they had Trust in me. This in turn made me rely as much on self-control and self-discipline of others. I realise that the better the team and its consistent individual members, the more you can achieve.
A strong partnership was indeed required with key individuals for the project to ever be a success. The team set about implementing and developing new standard operating procedures. It was felt that there was a need to make induction inspirational and to cover the crucial aspects of quality, including patient safety and team work. The induction was also an opportunity to make induction a positive experience and to ensure that future staff received the best possible inductions. There were also certain frameworks requirements we needed to adhere too such as Measuring for the Quality of Improvement (IQI) (2010), local organisation policies and conforming too local Denary requirements. We needed to work to key indicators to ensure that we were performing well. This meant we had to ensure that all new in-turns completed their induction within a tight timeframe and follow up inductions would take place to capture those who did not attend. We needed to provide an induction which not only met Deanery requirements but enabled a smooth transition for new Doctors working within the Trust; helping them to develop an insight into the Trust and its community health needs.
As a manager and a leader I realise that having good management and Leadership within the National Health Service, rather than relying on certain individuals, will be a huge challenge. Most leadership is exercised through teams that require inter-team working and a better understanding of their roles and being given the chance to improve. By focusing on the leadership capacity will create safer spaces for innovation, which means there will be new challenges in re-thinking on how we handle getting things wrong.
There is a need to allow people to step into and exercise their authority and leaders who can understand the way their organisations work.
Working together to make changes to services will enable health organisations to grow and will always continue on a journey of improvement. The project I lead on was successful and both I and the working group were recognised by the board and congratulated on its success. Understanding your strengths as well as your weaknesses is an important part of this journey. We are all different and I believe that my personal strengths and weaknesses, as a manager and a leader of others, make me who I am today. As a manager and a leader I am faced with a number of resources to help myself and others to increase strengths and overcome their weaknesses. It is important to take advantage of the resources available and to make use of them to help a project too succeed as well as undertake an effective evaluation process to help to make decisions about the future. By identifying and being self aware I am able to look at ways to improve upon my weaknesses, whilst using my strengths to my advantage without being selfish.
By discovering myself, from within, I will be able to help and give more to others, which I hope will be beneficial in my working relationships and I will become truer to myself.