Healthcare opinions: what does inclusive leadership mean?

This week we spotted Samantha Allen, Chief Executive (Designate) for North East and North East Cumbria NHS Integrated Care Board, asking the healthcare community what inclusive leadership means to them, we decided to have a look through some of the answers to explore what leadership really means to people in healthcare.

Samantha took to Twitter to ask her question to support a talk for NHS Confederation, the membership organisation that supports the healthcare system in the UK, and received plenty of replies from a wide range of roles across the industry.

So what does inclusive leadership mean? Here are some of the views shared…

For Emma Clarke, CEO of Weston Park Cancer Charity, it’s about having “genuine interest in people”. It’s about “[making] sure people can contribute ideas and what’s not working without fear. Understand the power your position has and use it to amplify and be an ally to others. Be yourself and show you’re human.”

Charlotte Williams, Chief Strategy & Improvement Officer at Mid & South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said that being an inclusive leader is “taking responsibility; creating an environment where everyone can see how they will add value and feel valuable.”

“For me it is about according dignity to people, listening to hear and not just respond, considering unintended consequences of decisions and creating cultures and services where people find and fulfil their potential,” said Pauline Smith, Development Advisor at NHS Improvement.

Listening was also key to Aaron Cummins, CEO for Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, who shared his belief that the key to inclusive leadership is “listening to what isn’t being said and seeking out those quiet voices… they often have the most impactful insights.”

Ruth Auton, Head of Education, Learning and Organisational Development at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, agreed. “It’s about “listening to understand,” she said. “Demonstrating empathy and trust with those you lead and work with. Being inclusive and offering safety (physical and psychological) for all in your organisation culture.”

Sara Bolton, Interim Regional Chief for NHS England & Improvement, said, “The inclusive leader strives to achieve no voice unheard and seeks out all voices. They welcome, listen to and demonstrate personal behaviour that promotes belonging and collaborative contributions.”

For Tolu Awe, Facilities Manager Lead for NHS Digital, “Inclusive leadership is about creating opportunities and removing the obstacles for the diverse people disproportionately excluded. Creating equity, and not simply equality.”

Head of Content for NHS Digital Eva Lake agreed, stating that the heart of inclusive leadership is “understanding the difference between equality and equity.”

“For me inclusive leadership is an approach not a skill hence applicable to everyone,” said Venus Madden, Clinical Fellow and Chief Allied Health Professions Officer. “It’s about having the willingness and empathy to adapt and make changes to the way we listen, engage and response to our colleagues. Embrace our own and others’ vulnerability and celebrate small successes.”

Andrew Corbett-Nolan, Chief Executive at Good Governance Institute, said that “as well as being in receive mode, taking in views”, being an inclusive leader also means “being very clear when in transmit mode about why decisions all don’t agree with are being made – even if it’s ‘on balance, I think this is best’.”

Marie Lyons, Surgeon and Divisional Medical Director for Planned Care for, East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, shared her take on the question: “Inclusive leadership values everyone and respects opinions even if vastly different from the leader’s own. The inclusive leader recognises that we are all but cogs in a huge complex system and we all need each other if we are to function at our best.”

To view the Twitter thread, please click here.