In the ‘old normal’, much of my work as a leadership coach was focused on helping senior clinicians to make the transition from leading in complicated work situations to leading in transformational, uncertain and ambiguous system contexts, also known as leading in complexity. Consultants who are leading teams as Clinical Leads or Clinical Directors, Medical Directors working at Board and system and national levels, and GPs leading in network roles, LMCs, CCGs or other primary care contexts can quickly find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the realisation that working in complexity requires a different skill set than how their minds have been trained by medical school, postgraduate education and their early medical leadership careers.
In the last 2 months, my medical leadership clients around the country and beyond have been called upon to lead in new ways, in not just deep complexity but at the cusp between complexity and chaos. Many have been asked to lead in very senior leadership roles, where their coaching training to be ‘the calm in the eye of the storm’ and to connect with people at an emotional level has meant that their character, values and skills have been recognised as highly precious and valuable to the system during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Leading on the cusp of chaos requires a different approach again compared to leading in complexity. At times a more directive style is needed, even when there is no obvious right answer, because it is better to make an informed decision based on the question of ‘what is sufficiently safe to experiment with in this context’, than to procrastinate and make no decision at all. Such decisions hinge on the Leader’s ability to:
- use their own inner compass (what is the desired direction of travel, what values are relevant to this context)
- use their inner radar (the 4D ability to rapidly seek and process data based on the Leader’s ability to integrate their learning from the past, their 360’ view of the present, and their ability to horizon scan into the future).
Leadership on the cusp of chaos requires an extremely high degree of internal self-regulation, listening skills, and ability to synthesise and integrate dynamic whole systems.
I can provide you with the space and structure to rapidly grow and develop your range of leadership skills and have over 20 years’ experience of working in public health including pandemic planning and crisis leadership. I am offering discounted coaching programmes during Covid-19 and am participating in the FMLM ‘safe space conversations’ scheme for medical leaders.
Dr Fiona Day (MBChB, FFPH, Dip Occ Med, Executive Coach) is a FMLM approved Executive Coach and works with senior Doctors to improve their careers, working lives, and leadership roles. Find out more at www.fionadayconsulting.co.uk; to explore working with Fiona please book a confidential half hour Career Consultation here.