The Executive Suite and my own leadership and lifelong learning reflections

Jacqueline Davies

I have a long-standing admiration for the NHS and like many of you, I have family members who worked in the system – in my case, as mental health nurses. I grew up listening to their stories and their passion for their work.

In my own career I was steered into humanities and social sciences, where eventually my first ‘proper job’ was in learning and employment skills. It’s a combination I’ve maintained for nearly thirty years, and I am passionate about education as vehicle for harnessing people’s potential and making progressive social change.

Through mine and my family’s experience of primary, acute, social and end of life care, I could see a direct link to the leadership behind the care experiences we found ourselves in. This has helped drive my desire to better support leadership across the NHS and reduce health inequalities more widely.

I believe that the NHS Leadership Academy has made a powerful contribution to the effectiveness of the NHS. We now have an opportunity to ensure this is strengthened to deliver our People Plan in the new, ‘with COVID-19’ world. One thing that has emerged from the past few months is the need for us as leadership and lifelong leaning professionals to pivot from leadership development, into leadership effectiveness. We must also ask ourselves how we can give executive leaders the support and tools that they need to make a difference.

The challenge of COVID-19 has brought innovation across the NHS and wider care settings, both for patients and for us as senior leaders: from the digital transformation of services, to the way we highlight and address inequalities. I believe that strong and inclusive leadership is vital to maintaining these new approaches. As we have outlined in the People Plan, we must support all our most senior leaders to have balanced working lives that are supplemented by lifelong learning.

Innovation in leadership and leadership education will be key to this. You will often hear me ask about what matters to the front line, and whether we have listened to a range of voices. What does world class look like, and how will we ensure we shape (rather than react to) the future? I believe horizon scanning and evidence-based research are essential in ensuring that we and our executive leaders stay relevant.

I recognise that at the heart of the People Plan is creating cultures which are universally understanding, kind and inclusive. I want that sense for us as people working in the NHS and equally, as something we role model as we lead our organisations and systems.

To support you as senior leaders in and across systems, we are launching the Executive Suite: Supporting senior leaders in health and care. It is made up of a range of new and existing well-being and leadership development offers, for executive leaders across health and care. It draws together insights from recent leadership reviews, and wider learning from The King’s Fund, NHS Confederation and NHS Providers.

These offers include wellbeing focused support, such as mentoring from the Centre for Army Leadership, as well as a series of seminars – initially focused on racial justice – and associated Virtual Action Learning sets.

Each region also has a range of networks and local executive leadership offers, and our regional heads of leadership and lifelong learning will be supporting executive leaders in finding the resources they need. Currently, a small number of the offers are limited to NHS leaders, however most resources are available to all executive leaders across health and care. Over the coming months, we will work with our partner organisations to extend these.

Our ambition is to work with executive leaders to develop co-designed, evidence-based content, to make the Executive Suite dynamic and responsive to support our senior leaders lifelong learning. Over the next few months, we’ll be holding a series of listening events to gather your views – we’ll share these dates soon and would love for you to join us. Please do share your feedback on the existing offers too, so we can ensure this content continues to be shaped and designed to meet your needs.

Finally, I’m also keen to make this a space for you, as exec leaders, to share your reflections on leadership and development. If you’d like to contribute to our monthly blog, please do get in touch.

Jacqueline Davies                                                        
Director of Leadership and Lifelong Learning