Leadership Academy

Leadership is an everyday event

Posted by: Jenny Clarke - Posted on:

In her latest blog, Jenny Clarke, midwife and a former participant of The NHS Frontline Nursing and Midwifery programme, talks about how the programme has had a positive impact on her career.


I’m heading into my 37th year in the NHS, eleven of those years were in nursing and they helped to shape me into the midwife I am today. In 2014 I was part of The NHS Frontline Nursing and Midwifery programme at the NHS Leadership Academy in Leeds. This positive experience changed me forever and continues to shape me as a midwife. I used to think that leaders were senior and never saw myself as one, but following the programme I made a decision to keep on leading so that others could learn to lead. After a difficult birth I turned to my community midwife Jean Duerden. It was Jean’s kindness towards me and my newborn daughter – plus her unwavering passion for midwifery – that inspired and motivated me to give up my career as a ward manager and start midwifery training. At 31 years old, I was the oldest person in the midwifery cohort and the only one with a child. Instead of hindering me these points gave me an advantage. I’d been through some life experiences – I lost my parents, travelled and become a mother. I vowed that in my role as a medical ward sister I would always be approachable, be as kind to the staff as I was with patients, help others to develop and – most importantly –  I would never ask anyone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.


I was the sister who told the consultant I was too busy to do the ward round and that my patients’ clinical and hygiene needs came first. So the consultant would sometimes record the ward round and I’d listen afterwards. I’d give notes out about each patient and come in early to help patients prepare their questions for the ward round. I helped with washes, bedpans and cleaning. My colleagues saw this and we were a team. I took my philosophy of care with me into midwifery.


The NHS Frontline Nursing and Midwifery programme helped me to understand myself and see that most staff who work in the NHS experience the same problems – the highs, the lows, the barriers and the drivers. I learnt that it was ok to be me and that the way we work round systems and processes in order to perfect individualised care is what makes us better clinicians and carers. The problem with the NHS is that we’re all expected to work in the same way. We need staff to be individual and not the same. We are, after all, the public which means we are the people we care for, so let’s embrace individualism.


The programme also taught me that people have their own stories and that’s what we need to pass onto the next generation of NHS workers. The challenges make us who we are and sometimes it’s not an easy ride. Because of the programme I made a promise to myself that each day I’d be a leader and reflect how I’d behaved– something I do in my personal diary. By making a colleague a cup of tea, washing a woman’s feet during a long labour, questioning decisions made by quoting evidence and research, I’m allowing others to see that they too can do these things. My promise was made so that I could pass the baton of leadership to others. I see maternity support workers as leaders as much as I see the ward cleaner as a leader – it’s how we behave that makes us a leader. Poor leadership can also cascade onto others so it’s important to check your behaviour regularly or to feed back to others who may have become lost in the system through no fault of their own. Just recently a junior doctor asked me a question; I felt proud to admit that I didn’t know the answer but I knew someone who did, so we both learnt and grew.


Leadership isn’t about attending a meeting or discussing how we can lead. Leadership is a lifestyle, it’s how we behave daily and it’s how we treat people. Parents are leaders, NHS staff are leaders and crossing patrol workers are leaders; it’s our own choice to be good or bad leaders.


I’d like to thank the NHS Leadership Academy. I attended their programme with an open mind and I’ve grown directly because of it. I accept who I am. I know that I’m not perfect but I appreciate the fact I’m trying my very best each day to improve women’s, families and staff experiences of our maternity services. To me that’s enough.

9 replies on “Leadership is an everyday event”

  • Thank you for expressing this leadership journey so eloquently. I was moved to read your blog. Your work is precious. All the best. Nicholas

    Nicholas Bradbury
    • Dear Nicholas
      I am learning each day – thank you so much for your feedback. The people I have met on Twitter have helped me to grow both emotionally and also in a way that gives me courage to speak out more . I’m also older now and feel wiser because of conversations I’ve had with myself and others . We are here to help one another and that will always be my driving force – sending Kindest regards Jenny Clarke – @ JennyTheM on Twitter : )

    • Dear Nicholas
      I am learning each day – thank you so much for your feedback. The people I have met on Twitter have helped me to grow both emotionally and also in a way that gives me courage to speak out more

  • Thank you for sharing your journey. I like your blog and your tips. Really inspirational ….

    • Dear Richard thank you so much . It’s taken me a long time to feel I can actially write from my heart & blogging helps me to do this. I suggest you join Twitter if your not already there –
      I appreciate your kind feedback
      With good wishes for. 2017 – Jenny
      @JennyTheM on Twitter

  • I very much like how you phrase “Leadership is a lifestyle”, this resonates with me….I also find your commitment to providing good care shines through.

    Well done for taking the plunge and changing direction. At 19 I was going into midwifery but decided I ought to do my nurse training first….I’ve not looked back but remain in nursing. Your story struck a chord and I’m pleased it’s worked out for you.

    • Dear Michele
      I think if I hadn’t 1. given birth 2. Met Jean Duerden – I’d have remained in nursing – but suddenly something clicked inside me that my poor experience of birth was made better because of Jeans kindness – I consider myself a nurse and a midwife ❤️ Sending Kindest regards and thank you for your lovely feedback x

  • I love my job as a midwife but feel I need to read inspirational pieces like this for me to keep giving as much as I would like to.

    Linda Coull
  • Dear Linda my best advice is to join Twitter – you don’t need to tweet but can follow other midwives like me @JennyTheM And keep up your midwifery passion xx ❤️

    Jenny Clarke

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