Developing leaders

In the latest part of our CPD series on mentoring, CSP project co-ordinator Amy Travis looks at the importance of developing leadership skills

CPD Developing Leaders

Over the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside more than 100 members as they embarked on their leadership journey through the CSP’s Leadership Development Programme (LDP). Physios aren’t usually known for being shy, which is why I was surprised when, in their pre-course evaluation, they were consistently reporting a lack of confidence. They felt unconfident in their abilities to influence and empower others and to enable change – just a few of the key skills needed to be identified as a great leader. Does this sound familiar?  If so, read on to see what small changes you can make to be one step closer to being a great leader.

Five top tips to help get you on your way to becoming a successful and effective leader

1. Know yourself

Before you can lead others, you need to learn to lead yourself. Take some time to figure out your values, your goals and your current leadership style. Know what is important to you and what motivates you. As CSP’s Nina Paterson shared in a 2015 Frontline article, knowing yourself “…provides the foundation to lead by example with authenticity and openness – confident to share your strengths, weaknesses, and doubts”.

Developing emotional intelligence increases your self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social skills, giving you the ability to understand your emotions, be adaptable, empathetic and able to deal with conflict more effectively.

There are a couple of simple things that you can do to start getting to know yourself better:

Self-reflection tools

Over the duration of the LDP we have used personality profiling systems, such as the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator and Clarity 4D, to establish who you are. There are a variety of free online surveys that you can take to establish what type of personality you have (although how useful matching yourself to a popstar or chocolate bar is, I’m really not sure) and the CSP has some advice within the ePortfolio to help guide you too.

The tools we used above gave participants insight into what made them tick and whether they were more introverted or extraverted; a thinker or a feeler; coercive or democratic; reflective or action-oriented. Whatever tool you use, it will help you to recognise your strengths and also your ‘bad day’ habits, allowing you to develop your potential by stretching in to the positive areas of the other personality types.

Think about getting your team to do something similar too. By sharing your results, you can understand each other’s preferences and work out how best to work with each member in your team.


It may be daunting, but ask your colleagues for honest feedback on what you are like to work with and how you work. This will help to identify both your strengths and weaknesses and allow you to truly understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of you. 

2. Recognising and overcoming imposter syndrome

‘I’m a fraud and everyone is about to find out’. ‘It was a fluke, it’s all down to luck’. ‘No, it was nothing really, no big deal’. These thoughts, and hundreds more like them… sound like you? 

Even as I am writing this, I am thinking ‘I can’t believe that I – a non-physio – have been asked to write about leadership. I have no right to say anything on the topic’. And that’s my first tip on overcoming imposter syndrome: realising that you are not alone in feeling this way and that having these feelings doesn’t make you any less of a person or a leader. Know that it’s ok to not be perfect, to not know everything and to make mistakes.

The first thing to do when you start feeling this way, is to acknowledge it. This is the first step to change, so ensure you track these thoughts: what they are and when they emerge. Having these thoughts can be really hard, so try to share how you are feeling with a trusted colleague, friend or mentor. Being courageous and sharing your feelings with others makes a huge difference.

Own your accomplishments and say ‘thank you’ to praise when you receive it instead of batting it away. Make a note or save to a file all positive comments that you’ve received and take a peek at these when you are starting to doubt your abilities. Use this positivity file to remind yourself that you are awesome and you are good enough.

Lastly, don’t take constructive criticism as a personal attack, but rather a learning opportunity.

3. Celebrate successes, big and small

As Alex Clevely said in August’s Frontline, ‘Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward and celebrate your achievements.’

Celebrating success is so important. It reinforces a sense of value in yourself, your work, your team and the work they do. Success is a series of small wins, which together make a huge difference. Recognising these achievements, big and small, you can build momentum to create a renewed sense of motivation, determination and fulfilment in your job.  

Showing gratitude and appreciation of your team’s work helps to create a happier and collaborative working environment with respect, good relationships and boosted self-esteem. So if a member of your team has worked really hard or impressed you in some way, acknowledge it. Positive reinforcement and praise is far more motivating than criticism.

However, ensure that your praise is genuine and not shallow, in order to maintain its effectiveness. Empty praise doesn’t let your team know their true value, so be as specific as possible to drive forward positive performance.

4. Continue to learn

Striving to do things better is the only way to stay ahead of the game. Learning allows us do this both individually and in teams, enabling you to stay relevant and discovering new ways of relating to people you work with. Competence leads to confidence; learning new things gives us a feeling of accomplishment, which in turn boosts our confidence in our own capabilities. Also, you’ll feel more ready to take on challenges and explore new ways of working. Acquiring new skills will unveil new opportunities and help you find innovative solutions to problems.

One way of doing this is by finding yourself a mentor or coach.  Nina’s CPD Frontline articles in December 2017 and July and August 2019 are a great introduction to this.  You can also visit to become a mentor or mentee.

If you are interested in widening your reading and perspectives in the field of leadership in health and care, the following websites may be worth a visit:

Also, check out some of the books, audiobooks and podcasts that have been suggested by CSP members on the LDP in The Leadership Library box.

5. Share your knowledge

As you continue to learn and pick up new tools, remember to share with your colleagues/employees – don’t be a knowledge hoarder. Sharing your knowledge creates a more effective team, helps to fill knowledge gaps and generates new ideas. To be a great leader, you need to bring your team along with you, and then you can learn from them too. Nurturing future leaders and teaching your team to grow is important for

Why not apply to take part in the CSP Leadership Development Programme? 

any organisations succession planning, offering new career pathways and opportunities to all staff and ultimately creating more physiotherapy leaders who can speak up for the profession.

Use #CSPLDP hashtag on Twitter to share your leadership knowledge, tips and advice with other CSP members.

Many of us aspire to be an inspiring leader, getting the best out of our team and leading change. But it can all too easily become something you wish you’d put more focus on. If I’ve inspired you, create a plan and start doing it. Look for opportunities both formal and informal. Whatever stage you are at in your leadership journey, move forwards and do something with it.

LDP testimonials

  • ‘Understanding myself has helped me to understand my interactions. This learning experience helped me to face things I had shied away from previously, to have those crucial conversations and to plan more appropriately for them giving rise to positive outcomes.’
  • ‘I work on being more open and transparent and aware of the importance of how my actions can make others feel.’
  • ‘We quickly learned there’s a leader in each and every one of us but we express this in many different ways.’
  • ‘It made me more confident, resilient and willing to engage, participate and put myself forward. Understanding my strengths and having leadership tools has removed the fear from challenges and replaced it with an enthusiasm for new learning & experiences.’
  • ‘I realised I could make a difference to others and lead services, innovation and movements without needing a specific title.’
  • “I gained personal insight from the 4D Clarity Personality Profile and how to better interact with people with different personality styles. I felt vulnerable having work colleagues read my Profile but the feedback given identified my strengths as perceived by others.”

Case study

Rachael Pickers, LDP alumni demonstrates the impact that leadership development had on her. For me this highlights that no matter where you are in your career, leadership is for everyone at all levels.

‘Following the course, I felt that I had developed the confidence and skills required to move forward in my career. Despite my lack of experience in years, I felt I had excellent quality of experience and an excellent understanding of leadership, paired with knowledge of the wider context of issues and a determination and passion to make a difference. With the support of my action learning set, I developed my interview skills and was able to gain an acting-up role within my team. I have recently been offered and will be moving to a permanent role of clinical lead within a community therapy service in Oxfordshire, providing clinical and managerial leadership to a team of physios, OTs, mental health practitioners and assistants. I would not have had the skills before this course to achieve this and it is exactly where I want to be in my career. 

I have relished the opportunity to support my colleagues using my skills and to enact service change and am greatly looking forward to future opportunities to further this in my new role, particularly as we change to neighbourhood working within the primary care networks. 

This course has been truly invaluable to me and virtually everything that we have learnt, I have implemented since. It was so practical and real-world applicable and has changed not only my career but my outlook and approach to life.’

The Leadership Library

Many LDP members have said that they’ve enjoyed the books (many available in audio – great for your commute in to work), podcasts and vlogs listed below.  If you have a review or key messages that you’ve taken from these, or have any more suggestions I’d love to know. 

  • Share your thoughts with me on Twitter by using the hashtag #CSPLDP
  • 7 habits of highly effective people, Stephen R. Covey
  • Black Box Thinking, Matthew Syed
  • Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
  • EntreLeadership Podcast 
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
  • Leadership Freak blog
  • Leadership on the Line, Ronal A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky
  • Legacy, James Kerr
  • Our Iceberg is Melting, John Kotter
  • Start with Why, Simon Sinek
  • Surrounded by Idiots (the four types of human behaviour) – Thomas Erikson
  • That’s not how we do it here, John Kotter
  • The Chimp Paradox, Dr Steve Peters
  • The Gift of the Gab, Davis Crystal
  • The Leaders Guide to Influence, Mink Brent and Fiona Dent
  • Who Moved My Cheese, Dr Spencer Johnson

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