Allison Trimble 

What qualities do you think make a good health care leader?

The ability to keep learning, to know how you learn best, and to be aware of what gets in the way of your learning are critical for leaders who work in environments where change is constant and unpredictable. This type of environment needs leaders who can keep learning as things change; ask the right questions rather than provide all the answers, and work confidently with complexity. This type of leader can lead thoughtfully and purposefully rather than simply react, and therefore can develop and progress their ideas to generate wider impact and benefit. But this sort of learning can be challenging; especially when it requires us to rethink ingrained assumptions about ourselves and other people. It is our own resistance to change that can make learning so hard at times, and yet it is so vital to keep working at this if we really want to bridge the gap between our intentions and what happens.

What sorts of challenges do leaders come up against when they are looking to extend their influence?

When leaders reach the limits of their authority despite having ideas and insights about how to change things, it can present them with a ‘moment’ where they must decide what to do. In this moment, they may be silenced, dismissed or misunderstood – this happens within organisational hierarchies where power may be used to impose decisions or in systems where expectations about collective decision-making are not shared.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by leaders in this situation is how to mobilise their own personal authority to find a way through the situation. In these pivotal moments, knowing how to keep a hold of their confidence, curiosity and competence is essential. This will help them work more creatively with resistance, perhaps, by reframing a problem as an opportunity to do something else or going beyond their role to influence where they can, building alliances with others who can speak on their behalf or finding ways to overcome barriers and remove obstacles.

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