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As society, and our economy, gradually returns to some sort of 'normality', occupational health will be in more demand than ever. Leadership is going to be a key way that providers meet the challenges, as well as maximise the opportunities, posed by the pandemic. But what makes for a 'good leader' in the context of a commercial OH provider? A recent SOM webinar attempted to find out, as Nic Paton heard.
After the scouring year we’ve just had from Covid-19 and the myriad post-pandemic workplace health and wellbeing challenges that now lie ahead, arguably there has never been a more important time for occupational health to be stepping up, to be providing leadership and effecting positive change at all levels.
But what makes for a good leader in the context of occupational health and wellbeing, especially commercial OH? What clinical and managerial attributes does an OH professional – whether physician, nurse, adviser or practitioner – need to be bringing to the table? What do commercial OH organisations even look for in a leader? And how can practitioners develop and acquire the leadership skills they need to progress in this context?
These critical questions were at the heart of a recent SOM (Society of Occupational Medicine) webinar, part of a series of ‘future leaders’ online events looking at various facets of leadership within OH.
The event was led by Dr Paul Williams, OH physician and chief executive officer Maximus UK, who gave an initial presentation which then fed into a Q&A-led panel discussion between Alex Goldsmith, chief executive officer at OH provider Medigold Health, Alasdair Emslie, chief medical officer at provider Health Partners, and Caroline Pearson, customer services director at provider RPS.
Understanding 'what is leadership?'
Dr Williams opened the discussion by posing the question: ‘what is leadership?’. As he pointed out, if you Google this question you come up many thousands of definitions, some more useful and relevant than others. Leadership and leadership development has become something of an industry, and an academic focus, in recent years and so it is all too easy to end up chasing yourself down a rabbit hole.
Nevertheless, he argued that, for him, two definitions stood out as being valuable. These were: ‘leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group to achieve a common goal’ and leadership is ‘a process of influencing whereby those who are exposed to
Nic Paton is editor of Occupational Health & Wellbeing, within OHW+. One of the country's foremost workplace health journalists, Nic has written for Occupational Health & Wellbeing since 2001, and has edited the magazine since 2018.