How to demonstrate leadership skills within your career
What is a leader?
Upon hearing the word "leader," you might automatically think of someone who manages a large team, or someone at the top who calls all the shots.
Although the term can have different meanings for different people, it's interesting to see that the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) defines it as "the capacity to influence people, by means of personal attributes and/or behaviours, to achieve a common goal."
Leadership in the healthcare industry
Reviews and research have shown the importance of leadership within healthcare, linking it to patient mortality, quality of patient care and patient satisfaction, and better staff wellbeing and morale.
Following the increasing recognition that all employees need to be leaders at some level, healthcare organisations are now shifting a relentless focus onto improving and investing in strong and effective leadership within the services they provide.
Leaders at all levels
All employees can be leaders, from directors, to middle managers, from first-line supervisors to front-line staff.
You could be a leader for example by raising concerns about staffing levels, by acting as a role model, or by taking forward an idea about how to improve patient care.
Leadership skills during recruitment
When recruiting, employers may want to see evidence and examples of your leadership skills within your CV, job application, assessments and/or interview.
Alternatively you may be applying for a post where leadership plays a key or important part. In this case you may be asked not only about your leadership skills, but about your leadership vision or leadership ethos.
Possible interview questions around leadership skills could include:
- Give an example of a time where you acted as a role model
- Describe a time where you had to bring someone round to an idea you had
- Describe a time when you had to take charge of a situation
- What does good leadership mean to you?
- What type of leader are you?
- Tell us about a time where you acted as an advocate for a patient
- Describe a time when you had to challenge a senior colleague
- How do you keep the morale of your team going in difficult times?
- Are you good at making decisions and planning?
- Do you often find yourself taking charge or leading in situations?
- Do you enjoy supporting and motivating colleagues?
- Do you consider yourself a good role model?
- Do you mind having less direct contact with patients?
Think about a time when you have...
- Advocated for a patient so that their wishes were heard
- Voiced issues important to nursing/patient care or for your team/organisation
- Took charge or led during a clinical shift, project or audit
- Supported, coached or mentored others
- Took responsibility for your own learning and development
- Acted as an Activist for healthcare causes
- Spoke out about improving services, improving resources or saving money
- Promoted equality and diversity, the 6Cs, or organisational values
- Acted as a role model
- Delegated or provided clear direction to others
- Empowered a patient to take charge or control of their health
- Took responsibility for reflecting and learning from your practice
- Challenged others who weren't following procedures or adhering to values
- Appropriately reported concerns regarding staffing or skill mix
- Acted to resolve issues that may have impacted on care or safety
- Prepared, supported and supervised those to whom care has been delegated
- Supported or motivated your team or colleagues
- Assisted with or helped with change management
- Influenced others to come on board with an idea you had
The NHS Healthcare Leadership modelIn the NHS, the healthcare leadership model is made up of nine different leadership dimensions, which can help you explore the ways in which you might already be acting as a leader, or inspire you to develop and grow your leadership skills. Here are some examples from the model that may resonate with you, or inspire you further:
- Valuing the ethos of a service
- Thinking about how to improve services and patient care
- Behaving in a way that reflects the principles and values of the NHS
- Acting as a role model and inspiring others to do the same
The NHS has various leadership programmes, designed to help everyone in the NHS discover their full leadership potential.
- The NHS Edward Jenner programme is a free eLearning resource open to all, aiming to support you to develop essential leadership skills. The programme is delivered online so you can complete it in your own time, at your own pace. It's suited to those looking to take their first steps into leadership, or wanting to find out more about leadership skills.
- The Mary Seacole programme is aimed at those in their first leadership role, and it is possible to get employer funding, or self fund.
- The Elizabeth Garrett programme is aimed at middle to senior leaders. There are bursaries available for BAME, disabled and LGBT+ applicants.