Servant leadership

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Last weekend, my son who is now 19 years old, was part of a group of volunteers  constructing and planting ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London – the centre piece of a moving and profound tribute to those who lost their lives in the First World War.

ShahanaRamsden
Shahana Ramsden

By engaging volunteers to create the memorial, rather than unveiling a completed installation, the designers created a sense of ownership and participation. As the field of poppies emerges, generations of people who have been part of the creation will look back at these moments with a sense of pride and involvement.

I believe that we can learn from this approach. As a leader, I think my greatest strength is my ability to nurture the talents of team members, to develop a sense of involvement and ownership of a shared goal – creating a group of empowered and committed staff. In my opinion you do not need to meet the chief executive officer of an organisation to assess the quality of their leadership; you can see, feel and experience this in the level of confidence that the leader has instilled in their staff, the ability of employees to think independently and to feel empowered to act.

I recently came across the concept of “servant leadership” and was reassured to discover that there is a philosophy and theory behind my preferred leadership approach. For me, the word “service” in the National Health Service should act as a reminder that staff at every level of the organisation are there to provide a service to people and we should be conscious of this every time we forget to be humble about why we are here.

This approach to leadership is particularly valuable when enabling co-production with people who use services and patients. Although the NHS has a long way to go until we can claim patients are genuine partners in their care, I am encouraged by programmes such as People Powered Health. One study confirms that the NHS in England could realise savings of at least £4.4 billion a year if we adopted People Powered Health innovations involving patients, their families and communities more directly in the management of long term health conditions. Sadly, in contrast, the Francis report confirms to us that in some cases patients are not heard and even harder to hear is that they have been ‘deprived of dignity and respect.’

My work in the NHS is influenced by my personal experiences, when 17 years ago I found myself in hospital after my second son, Adam, was stillborn. During this difficult time, I clearly remember one member of staff who took the time to visit me after her shift. I remember how she went to great trouble to find a china cup and saucer to bring me a cup of tea. I know that she had broken all the rules to do this but that moment where she treated me like I was the most important person in the hospital – the moment when she gave me my dignity back – remains with me even after all these years.

My experiences remind me of one important message; we will know we have great leadership when each member of staff will feel empowered to make every individual patient feel like they are the most important person in the room.

So for me, the hardest but most valuable aspect of leadership has been to give up power and visibility and empower others knowing that ultimately this will lead to a more sustainable and patient-centred NHS.

3 thoughts on “Servant leadership

  1. Our UK NHS is way behind on MS. MS too many make profits, shares and commissions on all the MS drugs along with very high salarys. The MS societys have made billions also. NO MS drug will ever cure MS ever. Many have died on these MS drugs and no one in UK is brave or strong enough to scrutinize whats really been going on for decades. NO data has been kept on how many have died and what MS drugs they have all took . The new way forward worldwide is CCSVI and this would help save our NHS 20 million pounds if we moved into new directions .One neurologist is being sued thankfully for naysaying CCSVI and forsees many more will be also. Our Government give the MS researchers in Barts and London a million pounds a year and they also are not doing UK any good at all. Its so easy to work out whats going on in the UK and whos part of taking money and NOT helping MSers in UK

  2. Excellent blog Shahana. I would also add that it is important for us all to reflect on how we make decions? what decisions challenge us the most and why? Where we can go to test our ideas and how we demonstrate personal leadership on the values of team/organisation/business. For example at MHFA England we identfy a brand value each week and we consciously check our behaviour again that value. This assists us all to behave in a way that reflects the culture every day.

  3. Hello,

    I think the NHS should introduce courses in Servant Leadership, as the impact on the NHS and the patients would be significant. This approach to leadership lends itself to the health care sector.