Dr Oliver Warren and Dr Emma Stanton share their tips for emerging medical leaders.

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Medical Leadership is a banner around which politicians, managers and clinicians all seem happy to gather. To explore how emerging medical leaders are best nurtured and developed, we conducted a focus group using the current Prepare to Lead participants, an NHS London leadership development mentoring programme for doctors, and some invited guests.

Following this group discussion, here is our shorthand guide for emerging medical leaders and for senior leaders and policy makers:

Tips for emerging medical leaders

  • Be resolute. Don’t listen when told what you believe to be best will be “career-ending” or regarded as non-committal
  • Seek out multiple mentors; invest in the relationships, work at them and realise the benefits of multi-source opinion and support
  • Have a vision, something for which you will be known or with which you will be uniquely associated
  • Be optimistic – it’s contagious. Focus on the positives, try to see initial rejection or difficulties as further opportunities to learn and develop
  • Seek out like-minded individuals, realise the importance of support networks and mutually beneficial professional relationships. Identify those who share common values and aims and work through and with them
  • Invest as much time in being a good clinician as being a good leader. Realise that through clinical credibility comes the security to lead improvements in the care we provide
  • Stay open-minded and scan the horizon for opportunities. Try to be strategic in deciphering what may give you new and exciting options compared to more of the same

Tips for senior leaders and policy makers

  • Encourage those looking to do things differently. Allow failure when occurring for the best of reasons
  • Mentor others; realise what positive effect you can have on the professional and personal life of someone more junior
  • Work with junior colleagues to help them define what it is they are seeking to achieve, beyond “being successful” or “realising ambition”
  • Promote cautious optimism. Encourage positivity over scepticism or cynicism
  • Prioritise networks. Understand that the opportunity for colleagues who don’t normally come into contact with each other to meet and learn is important
  • Recognise the importance of many of your medical leaders being just that, and that their spending time with patients and colleagues delivering care is good for the organisation
  • Provide opportunity – where not possible, ensure that challenges or knock-backs are seen by those you manage as potential new opportunities for growth or learning