Valeria Fiore talks to London Leadership Academy and Kent, Surrey and Sussex (KSS) Leadership Academy director Anne-Marie Archard about what makes a good leader and how women should be encouraged to take on more senior roles in the NHS.
Ms Archard’s career history includes working with mental health policy at the Department of Health for 15 years, before coming to the conclusion that she wanted to work more closely with people in the NHS rather than just focus on policy, which she found was at the ‘whim of ministers’.
Her first step into leadership development began when she was assigned the Leadership Framework at the NHS Leadership Academy.
The framework, which has now been replaced by the Healthcare Leadership Model, sets a ‘single model of leadership for all health and care staff to aspire to’.
As part of the Healthcare Leadership Model, Ms Archard helped develop the first 360-degree feedback tool, which gives individuals an insight into other people’s perceptions of their leadership abilities and behaviour, at the Leadership Academy.
She is currently director of two local delivery partners of the NHS Leadership Academy, the London Leadership Academy (since 2012) and KSS (since 2017).
At present she leads the commissioning, design and delivery of leadership development programmes to help leaders respond to the challenges they face in their roles.
Q What inspires you in this role?
A The reason I am doing this job is that I know it makes a difference to staff who work on the frontline, the ones delivering the service to patients. The academy offers a range of work that really has an impact on what people need to be more effective in their leadership roles.
Q How can we help women step into leadership roles within the NHS?
A We need to look at two things. Firstly, we need to focus on how we promote role models. When we have senior women who are successful, we should talk about their careers.
Secondly, we need a flexible working policy. In the NHS, we have the best family-friendly policy available, but organisations are somehow more scared to implement flexible working policies. Organisations may often [be reluctant] because they might think that if they let one person work flexibly, that could open the floodgates to anybody [doing that].
We could collaborate with a range of people who want to work differently and see how their requests can meet the needs of our business. These approaches would benefit both men and women but would help women even more because they take time off to have children and care for them.
I think that if we work on these two points, we will see more women in senior roles. However, even if we talk about compassionate leadership, we still have a very strong compliance culture in the NHS. Why should people risk moving into senior roles, work long hours and take risks that might get them sacked?
The culture of the NHS is still too much about command and control. We need to move towards a more empowering and supportive way of working.
Q What are the key qualities of a leader?
A I once asked a chief executive this question and he told me: ‘The hardest part is to manage myself’. I think that really resonates with me. To lead others, you have to be aware of who you are, how you behave and your impact on others. If you are not self-aware and not always seeking help to understand what your impact on others is, I don’t think you stand much of a chance of being a good leader.
We also need leaders who can make decision, but leaders do that by taking people with them and working in an empowered way. If you impose a decision, people will deliver it but they won’t own it.
Q Why are networks for women important?
A All networks are important. It is great to network using technology, but it is a basic human function to communicate face-to-face.
If we need people to make change happen and take decisions that will affect our services, they need to trust each other, and networks allow that to happen. After 70 years of the NHS, we can say that this is a female industry but we are not at the point where senior boards are representative of its workforce.
That is the importance of having a female network: to find out how we should engage with women. The London Women’s Leadership Network can bring women together, support them, and give them strategies for how they can do things differently at a local level.
Q What are you most proud of in your career?
A I’m really proud to lead on the work that we are doing in London and for the local academies to develop a strategic approach to inclusion with the ‘Capital people’ programme, focusing on experimental and innovative approaches to developing a fairer and more inclusive NHS workforce.
Q What advice would you give women who want to apply for NHS leadership roles?
A I would tell them not to be put off if they look at a job description and they don’t fit all the criteria. Instead, look at it and tell yourself ‘I can do that’.
Find out who you will be working with and make sure they are people you will get along well with. Don’t be afraid to think about what you will need, both in terms of support and flexibility. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.
Finally, think about approaches. If you want to work part-time, but you were selected for a full-time job, how could you have a conversation within the organisation to encourage them to meet your requirements?
Anne-Marie Archard is the director of the London Leadership Academy and KSS Leadership Academy