‘Being a senior or emerging leader intent on enabling better systems working across the health and social care sectors can be a lonely business,’ says Nicholas Bradbury, senior associate at the NHS Leadership Academy, as he leads the design and delivery of their Director and Intersect programmes.
Many of us have become used to 'silo working', which creates large gaps, not only between health and social care delivery, but within our own organisations.
Effective systems leadership pans out to see inter-dependencies. It looks at the ‘whole’ from all perspectives, overcomes rivalries and, in some cases, the fear of relinquishing power by sharing.
It works on the assumption that systems can only move at the speed of the trust held between all those involved. Whether improving pathways between local government and social care, or improving communications in hospitals, where trust is absent, so is system collaboration.
So if put simply, systems leadership shows how ineffective it is to stay in silos, what’s stopping us?
- Small-picture thinking: We’re still prioritising our own organisations rather than the system as a whole
- Red tape: Regulators are often considered a barrier, as research from The King’s Fund recently revealed. Rather than encouraging each organisation to just act independently and compete on its own terms, we need to encourage a whole-system approach with all parties working towards the same end-goal
- Lack of trust: You can’t have system collaboration without everyone coming together and believing, trusting in a shared objective
The NHS Leadership Academy’s Intersect programme is creating a community of like-minded people right across the public and third sectors. It aims to develop and nurture systems leadership capability across services for the benefit of patients and citizens.
The programme approaches this by challenging its participants to do profound and challenging personal work while promoting and sharing a deep understanding of cross sector dynamics and cultures - empowering leaders to tackle inequality, social exclusion and conflict.
It gives participants:
Access to leading edge thinking
- The increased confidence to establish meaningful and productive relationships
- The opportunity to network with senior cross-sector leaders from across England
- Increased emotional intelligence and self-awareness
- The personal authority and relationships skills needed to co-create effective systems leadership networks
So if you want to adopt an open, enquiring mind set and refuse to be constrained by current horizons, this may be the programme for you.
As one participant summarises:
I can now move more easily beyond the remits of my control, take risks, build relationships that are meaningful and influence the wider system within which I live and work. I have found a power that is humble, just and innovative, and it seems to work!