Knowing me: Leadership & CPD

In the second in a series of leadership, CSP adviser Nina Paterson says successful leaders start by ensuring they know themselves.

We ended the last article with a question: what do you need to do to achieve your goal?
Before we get into action plans and things to do, let's start at the beginning.

What do you need to do to achieve your goal? 

The starting point to being a great leader is to know yourself – to be self-aware. Understanding what’s at the root of your values, attitudes, drive and motivation provides the foundation to lead by example with authenticity and openness – confident to share your strengths, weaknesses, and doubts.
By doing this you’ll be able to communicate your sense of purpose, and the thinking behind it, inspiring and motivating those around you through your openness and clarity of thought. 
You’ll also see clearly what you’re going to need from those around you – as illustrated by Vanessa Haycock’s approach to leadership (Frontline, page 24, 4 February).  
And ultimately self-awareness underpins social and political awareness – but we’ll leave that for part three.

How do you develop self-awareness? 

You have to want to. Let’s go back to one of the leaders on my list: Nelson Mandela said: ‘One of the most difficult things is not to change society – but to change yourself.’ 
It takes time and effort. Be prepared to put yourself in an uncomfortable place – you’ll need to lift the metaphorical rug and take a good look at all of the things you’ve swept under there. And not just to looking but unpicking your habits, challenging your own thoughts, preconceptions, emotions. In other words, examining pretty much everything that makes you, you! 
Hang on to what you want to achieve – to motivate yourself when this seems too much. Keep a note of your responses to the prompts in last article, especially the benefits you’d identified for the patients or service users.

Examine those ‘dust balls’

The great news is that as a physiotherapist or support worker you already have these skills. You’ll need to observe, examine, analyse, judge, reflect, critique, evaluate, problem-solve, test out. But, instead of looking at your clinical practice, apply them to your experiences, thoughts, feelings, responses, interactions and actions. 
You’ll need to dig deep, this isn’t just jotting down a quick list of strengths and weaknesses. If you look back at the activity we provided in the last article, you will see a set of prompts. You will need something similar to help you pull your experiences apart. 
There isn’t just one way to go about this, so try different approaches out. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. You could try keeping a journal or a blog.
Some people find talking aloud or with others useful. As CSP chief executive Karen Middleton said in her last In person column, she does her best thinking with others (page 35, 4 February)
It doesn’t really matter what method you use, it’s just important that you’re doing it.
You’ll find examples of some of the most recognised approaches, along with more detailed explanations about how and why they are useful and further activities in the CSP ePortfolio ‘CPD resources workspace’. 
If you are a student you have perfect opportunities built into your course. Next time you’re asked to reflect on a placement experience or create a portfolio, make the most of these activities – they’re designed to help you build the skills we’re talking about.

Own your ‘dust balls’

Often the best time to learn about yourself is when things ‘go wrong’ but at that point that may well be the last thing you want to do!  Come at it when you’re not exhausted or overwhelmed. And if you do, be aware of the impact that this might have on your judgement. 
Make space in your own head. Find something that works for you… go for a walk, a run, sit in the park, meditate or practise mindfulness. 
You’ll also need to be honest with yourself. If you find yourself blaming others, obsessing, wallowing or feel guilty – stop! All these are just distracting you from achieving your goal. 

Figure out what you don’t know

We all have blind spots. Are there patterns of behaviour that could potentially hinder you that you can’t see because they are just a part of who you are? A good leader takes the time to find out. Use formal and informal opportunities such as appraisals, student feedback, 360-feedback, ask – your team, peers, those you line-manage. We’ve highlighted mentors before. The value of a network or critical friend can’t be overstated.

And finally…

Like all good habits, the more you put this into practice, the more second-nature it will become.  I’ll end with another quote from Nelson Mandela for inspiration: ‘I realised that if I did not leave all of the anger, hatred and bitterness behind, then I was still in prison.’ fl


Between now and the next instalment in the series clear some space in your life to get to know yourself as a leader and a clinician or support worker.
Set aside regular time to examine your interactions and experiences within the work environment. Structure your thinking process (see ePortfolio link in the main article for examples or devise your own).
If you are looking for some ideas to get you started, you might want to build on last month’s article:
  • Go back to the qualities of a leaders – which of these are you naturally good at, would others agree that you’re role-modelling these attributes? What do you need to change or do differently? 
  • Thinking about your goal, could you explore your personal values further? How they might impact on or influence your approach? This might help you communicate clearly with others and help you identify where your blind-spots are.
  • If any of the suggestions in this article made you wince, or if you recognised yourself when we were talking about blaming others, then you might have a ready-made opportunity to explore your responses. What impact do these behaviours have on your approach, practice or attempt to achieve your goal?
Nina Paterson

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