Ethical Leadership

What we learn from starlings

When a ‘murmuration’* of starlings appears in the air and wheels and turns as one, the very human question and presumption is, ‘Who is leading?’  Look closer and you will see there is not a recognisable leader as we would label it.  At work, look closer at teams who lack a recognisable leader and you will see that they do not lack leadership.

Leadership is something that helps systems to function by coordinating and directing effort, and is therefore not a ‘thing’ but a ‘process’.  Time and again, history shows that when we are in our darkest hour, there will also be a hero who will emerge and show us the way.  Smart teams organise themselves in ways that help these leaders to emerge, and whilst things will not always go the way they should, this process of learning and adaptation is like any other form of evolution, where leaders can be made.

To be effective, a leader has to be the right person, at the right time and place, doing the right thing.  This could be a clinician who spots flaws in a service provision which is slowing down the patient pathway, who then motivates colleagues from a number of different parts of the service to come up with an innovative way of changing the flow of processes.  It could be the Nurse Practitioner who has just joined a team that is very understaffed and takes time to sit down with the Ward Manager to find a quick fix but then a long term solution.

The key to effective leadership is the resilience and skill to face our fears, see opportunities rather than problems and step forward and attempt dialogue across issues and boundaries in a collaborative way.  History has shown that fighting over territory, resources and control, fractures organisations and cultures.  This fracture starts when we ignore our inner values and beliefs and take on a modified persona at work.  Truly courageous leaders acknowledge that they do not know all the answers but trust themselves and others to do the right thing.

* watch an astonishing sequence filmed by wild life cameraman and travel journalist Dylan Winter:

Dedici Workshop recommendations:

  • Leadership Fundamentals
  • Authentic Leadership for Clinicians
  • Collaborative Leadership for SAS Doctors


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