WCPT Congress: Everyone can improve their leadership skills, delegates told

An array of passionate international speakers inspired me to make extra efforts to promote the value of physiotherapy 

by Katrina Kennedy


In my second World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT) blog I want to focus on communication, governance and leadership. I was fortunate to attend the WCPT leadership and governance discussion group, where it struck me that the less-developed countries (low to medium-income nations, also known as the 'global south') have the most amazing and passionate leaders.

I listened to an amazing young leader, who had a clear vision of the future of phsyiotherapy in their country but wondered if the poiticians shared their vision. Another felt the career framework in the country in which they operated meant they weren't exposed to inspiring leaders and that it was difficult for others to motivate themselves as a result. It was also stated that no junior staff attended leadership courses as they felt the training was only for older physios.

A passion for empowerment

I reflected that there are still pockets of the UK where our management structure is hierarchical, but the CSP and many NHS trusts are now realising the importance of leadership at all levels. And I'm passionate about empowering more junior staff to lead.

At the WCPT workshop, there followed a good discussion on established and emerging leaders, and how everyone can improve their leadership abilities. The importance of winning early gains and trust were emphasised, as well as being aware of the organisation's culture and supporting an environment where emerging leaders can step up to the challenge while being shown respect in a no-blame culture.

Senior managers were encouraged to be more visible, building credibility by going back into uniform or doing an administrative role to truly understand the working ways of others, and to be aware of the more introverted person who is not necessarily the obvious leader.

The discussion then moved on to governance. It was felt that any council or board needs to be small enough to allow close mutual respect within a constructive, challenging and questioning relationship, where joint leadership allows people to see things through the same lens. If you are sitting at the council or board table, you should be able to help drive long-term strategic thinking, not focus solely on short-term agendas.

Power can corrupt 

It was suggested that some members 'get drunk on power' and that the strong need to be humble and to use any authority wisely. Some emerging leaders felt that members of their boards were not fully aware of the impact of poor governance.

At this point I would like to remind readers that CSP staff and Council have worked hard over the last 18 months undertaking the governance review, with the outcome being voted on at the AGM on 12 November at Physiotherapy UK. If you would like to hear more about the review and how we are trying to ensure that we follow the guidance above, see the Frontline article: Your council, your voice.

The South African Physiotherapy Association is trying to lobby ministers for more access to physiotherapy as there are currently about 7,000 physios for a population of 60 million - similar to the UK, but we have approximately 56,000 physios. The only way we can lobby successfully is by showing the value added by physios, which means collecting data and presenting the facts.

WCPT has been an amazing experience and I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to hear physio perspectives from all over the world. There are two areas where I feel clinicians need support. The first is in our communication with patients. To be truly person-centred we need to harness the service users' agenda, the root cause of their issues, and develop collaborative action, making 'every contact count' to address preventative, holistic, underlying health and wellbeing issues.

Rehabiliation is key

We have much to learn from the global south, where community spirit is much stronger and communities are generally more active

Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer will only be reduced if we work collaboratively in local communities, and this is where we have much to learn from the global south, where community spirit is much stronger and communities are generally more active. On hearing more about humanitarian responses, my final reflection is that rehabilitation is key. An effective emergency response that is not followed by rehab has worse outcomes than not having the surgery at all.

There is now an expected level of rehabilitation response as part of the World Health Organization's Rehabilitation 2030 standards. And if we can mandate for rehabilitation after disasters we should also mandate for rehab after neck-of-femur fractures.

The national Hipsprint audit developed by the CSP and the Royal College of Physicians and which physiotherapists across the UK are currently completing will help collate the data that will evidence the need

Lobbying is vital

 If we are going to take our profession forward then this is the time for constructive engagement and lobbying - and that means all of us influencing at every opportunity. The next WCPT takes place in 2019 - let's see what we can achieve in the next two years!

WCPT Congress 2019 takes place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 10-13 May.

Katrina Kennedy is Head of Clinical Effectiveness at Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust. Follow Katrina on Twitter @katrina_quality

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