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In the first of her regular columns for Frontline, CSP chief exec Karen Middleton says leadership is for everyone – not just the boss

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I’ve been in post a little over three months now.

Despite all the new challenges of running a professional body and trade union, I have made a point of spending time each week with CSP members in their workplace, whether in the NHS, the private sector or in universities, where I’ve been able to meet both academics and students.

From Belfast to Doncaster, members have shared concerns and achievements. They expressed why they belong to the CSP and what changes they want to see.

As a leader, it is important I get a balance between influencing the external context in which the organisation is working and giving attention to the internal structures, processes and culture which ensure the organisation is fit for purpose.

That’s why, for me, hearing what our grassroots members’ views and opinions are is so important.

Them and us

I am struck, however, by the ‘them and us’ – the ‘CSP staff and CSP members’ – tone to the conversations.

This usually indicates a divergence of purpose or priorities. I am concerned at this, as I want the CSP to both lead and serve its membership.

As a membership organisation we rely on members to help steer the direction you want the profession to travel in, though you will, of course, expect the staff to help lead you on that journey.

The CSP staff will ensure you are supported in your work, both from a professional and an employment perspective. But there is so much more we can achieve as an organisation, and as a profession, if all 52,000 members are engaged. That would be formidable social movement to reckon with!

Our current programme of action, Physiotherapy Works, could be the vehicle to help us come together and drive a new direction.

Launched in January, with the motto ‘living longer, living well’, this programme focuses on how physiotherapy staff can take the lead in solving the difficulties healthcare faces. Crucially, we have to deal with growing demands while managing with fewer resources.

Let’s get local

Over the coming months, I, like others, plan to be out and about with members talking about how we ensure more people benefit from physiotherapy to live healthier, better quality and longer lives.

Crucially it is about how, as physiotherapy staff, we exert the influence of a profession based on quality employment and the highest standards of clinical practice, education and research.

The CSP staff will provide the support and tools to help members but we cannot do the local influencing required to really make a difference. That is down to you.

To do this at the moment, against such a difficult backdrop, requires superhuman effort, I know. But this is a legitimate part of being a clinical professional, whatever grade or band you are. It is about leadership regardless of where you are in the hierarchy.

I am trying to influence on a national basis. I need you to do it locally.

Karen Middleton is the chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Follow Karen on Twitter

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