Catching Leadership in 3 Questions: Some Ideas for Clinical Supervisors

Blog - Catching Leadership in 3 Questions: Some Ideas for Clinical Supervisors

By: Jessica Young, GCertClinEd, MNutDiet, BExSci
Principal Medical Education Officer
Gold Coast Health

Leadership and management has been coming up regularly in our clinical supervisor course as a topic of great interest, but we hadn’t been sure how to include it. Should we do a leadership session? Or leave it up to the designated leadership courses and stick with education. Are they even different?

Fortuitously I was recently in the same vicinity as Prof. Jenny Rudolph (expert in leadership and behavioural science) and took the opportunity to have a hallway conversation. I wondered aloud to Jenny if leadership and management might be implicit when learning about being a better supervisor. After all, being a great supervisor means providing feedback, role modelling, facilitating conversations, setting expectations….right? Weren’t these all leadership and management qualities? Jenny agreed but also made some great points that I hadn’t thought of. I know, shockingly, it turns out that me reading that one paper on adaptive leadership does not make me an expert.

She introduced the concept of ‘Leaderly moments’ or ‘Micro-leadership’. These are moments of leadership that we all have access to even if we are not the designated leader / manager in the hierarchy. I immediately loved that leaderly moments are experienced by everyone – our trainee doctors, our junior doctors, myself as a non-clinician, nurses, administrators, literally, everyone in a team.

Jenny’s hallway conversation with me was a great example of a leaderly moment. She could have just told me the answers quickly. Instead, she took a little more time and helped me to clarify my vision and then encouraged me to come up with some of my own solutions, and sprinkled in her expertise along the way.

We discussed how micro-leadership might be practically included in the existing supervisor course. We thought it might work to have the participants actively recognizing and articulating ‘Leaderly moments’ in themselves, and those around them. This might be called ‘Catching leadership’ and would involve having our clinicians reflect on 3 key questions over the period of the course;

1.            What leaderly behaviours did you observe this week?
2.            How did you feel when you were being effectively lead?
3.            How did you feel when you were leading?

I can see that this small activity would slide easily into the rest of our course, which involves a face-to-face introduction of a concept, application activities in the workplace, followed by an online reflection to consider what was learned.

I have started trying to ‘catch leadership’ myself using these three questions and it’s been…enlightening. Noticing other people’s leaderly behaviours and examining why they felt leaderly to me (or not), has enabled me to see some flaws in my own approaches.

This process of noticing has also made me more cognizant of leaning into leadership opportunities as they arise in my daily work. This has convinced me that this relatively simple activity could have a similar effect for our clinician participants.