Reflections on leadership

A reflective piece from Liz Nyawade,

Deputy Chief People Officer, St George’s University Hospitals Trust


A Roller-coaster Ride

In my reflections, leadership is akin to going on a roller-coaster ride; lots of highs and lows accompanied by thrilling and heart-wrenching moments. I have many days filled with excitement and others with anxiety however the sense of responsibility and passion to do my very best each day for colleagues and patients prevails.

I have learnt that I can only be myself as a leader because appropriation of leadership is unique. For me, it has been about being honest with myself, discovering more about my behaviour, drivers, and most importantly, how others experience me. This learning has come from a myriad of sources, solicited and unsolicited feedback, leadership development programmes, coaching and mentoring sessions but most notably through my practice of reflection. The learning never stops. Reflecting on the mistakes I make has produced some invaluable moments of self-discovery. I have learnt not to be afraid of failure and to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. These have resulted in moments of personal growth and increased drive to improve.

One of the biggest challenges that nothing could have prepared me for is the level of scrutiny that comes with being a leader. What you do or don’t do, say or don’t say, write or don’t write, have an impact on those around you. It is one of those things that I found very hard to embrace. Taking a learning approach to feedback has helped me tremendously. Talking to peers during these inevitably vulnerable moments has also been helpful.

There have also been many rewarding moments. Seeing colleagues develop in their careers following mentoring sessions, career conversations or simply sharing my journey is fulfilling. I have personally benefitted from many who have supported me so I deliberately make time in this area, amidst competing interests, to pay that debt of gratitude. On a day to day basis, knowing that you have been an enabler to colleagues and teams is also satisfying. There have also been many key moments that stay with me, including the privilege of being trusted to listen to colleagues going through challenging personal circumstances and just being there with them in the moment.

I have also found that it is important to remain up-to-date as a leader. On a personal level I’m absolutely wedded to continuously improving as an individual, as a leader, and also in my functional specialism. To this end, I deliberately make time usually on a Sunday, to undertake some form of CPD activity. These tend to take the form of listening to podcasts e.g. The Kings Fund, HSJ Health Check, on topical issues, reading articles from Harvard Business Review, NHS Employers, The King’s Fund and exploring articles on CIPD website. I also trawl through twitter for articles that are fun, educational and informative. In addition, I am currently on the Aspiring Directors of Workforce Programme that is supporting my learning through networking. I have been shadowing a colleague to learn about how their integrated care system is driving some key tangible changes for patients. The HPMA London Academy remains a constant source of learning through events and networking. My drive to keep current stems from my love of the Desiderata poem by Max Ehrmann.

Finally, based on my experience in leadership, I have grown in my appreciation of the ambiguities and complexities that leaders face when it comes to decision making.

Elizabeth Nyawade

Deputy Chief People Officer

St. Georges University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

photo of Liz Nyawade

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