The Essence of True Leadership – by Dr Linda Edwards

Dr Linda Edwards is Managing Director of the Diabetes Service and Redesign Consultancy. Here she reflects on the Consultancy’s first year.

Dr Linda EdwardsThe key to leadership is about being our authentic selves and creating the space for people to thrive and grow. Never is that more true than when we are setting up a new organisation or creating organisational change. The Diabetes Service Redesign and Improvement Consultancy is such an entity; we have just had our first birthday and have a number of successes under our belt. As we grow our successes we grow in our strength, whether we are working in whole or specialist service redesign; coaching leaders; or using our Diabetes Primary Care Profiling Tool (DPCPT), we are committed to creating better health outcomes.

My leadership story is a tale of synchronicities, falling down, picking myself up, laughing and crying. It is about being a human being who is passionate about helping people to change and grow; to be the very best they can be. I have made plenty of ‘mistakes’ but each of those have transformed into brilliant opportunities to grow as a person and understand more of what it takes to be the best you can be. My modus operandi is to do what I can to help as many people as possible avoid some of the pitfalls that I experienced.

The early part of my career was spent as a clinician, in fact one of the earliest podiatrists to undertake foot surgery. At 32 I found myself heading up an FHSA, with a population of over 1 million. (For those of you too young to remember FHSAs they were the statutory bodies for managing primary care, mainly through the independent contractors, GPs, dentists, pharmacists and opticians.) I was the Deputy Chief Executive; my boss was unceremoniously removed, and so I was asked to step up into the role! I was terrified; nearly everyone in the organisation was older than me and seemed to be far more experienced. It was a true baptism by fire. Within three months I had found fraudulent activity and as a result I had to ask the Finance Director to leave. Simultaneously I was asked to manage the disaggregation of the FHSA and merging its component parts with four District Health Authorities. The rest, as they say, is history….

So, what does it take to engage at team?

To answer this question I thought I would ask some of the consultancy team.

Tom Stansfeld, Senior Intelligence and Support Officer, said, “One thing that I think our team does really well is listen to each other. I always feel my opinion is considered and that I am given time to express my views. This makes it very easy to engage with the team as I feel the team has time for everyone.”

Tom has a point here, as real listening is, I believe, the key component of effective leadership. Listening to our own gut feelings, listening to people – not just the words that they use, but how they use them – listening to those at all levels of an organisation, as ‘the most surprising solutions can often be found in surprising people’.

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