Evaluating the first MS Leadership MasterClass

14 Jul 2021

Whilst aware that leadership skills are not a common form of professional development within clinical settings, it was not until a Raising the Bar national meeting that Neurology Academy recognised that we could support that need through targeted education. Indeed, we realised that to do so would be in line with our own values and a furthering of our goal: to see real, lasting and transformative change in services, we needed to invest in leadership.

The MS Leaders Academy was born, seeking to inspire, encourage and equip healthcare practitioners to both lead for change in their own areas, and inspire their peers to become leaders in turn.

This year, our first cohort graduated from their MasterClass. Despite completing the course amidst the coronavirus pandemic, each delegate has had a significant personal journey. Valuing the depth and breadth of the course, the variety of skills, abilities and perspectives within the group, and finding new insights into themselves and others, they have also, together, developed a bold solution to the rise in emergency hospital admissions facing the MS community.

'Everyone has the capacity to be a leader'

The MS Leaders Academy begins the course with a focus on leading self. This is an essential element to grasp in order to effectively lead others, and to lead in different settings, including leading for change, all of which are also covered by the course. Many of the delegates reflected both on their developed understanding of this and of how it has played out in their personal and professional lives.

'When we were first meeting I was under the impression that the course was to teach us how to become a leader, and I was quite surprised to learn that we were already thought of as leaders in some capacity, and that this was to develop our skills. I hadn't recognised that I had any leadership qualities and was quite surprised to find that other people thought that I did.'

Jenny Ledsam, MS coordinator

The Leadership MasterClass makes use of the Insights Discovery tool, including their colour wheel and several delegates remarked on the usefulness of that activity in identifying their own skills and barriers, as well as in being able to bring out the best in team members - within the MasterClass and in daily working.

'...At one point I was so far left in green and blue while everyone else seemed to be somewhere else! It was quite an insightful experience... It helped me appreciate who might be more suited for certain roles within the project. When dividing up the roles you could see why people might be suited to certain tasks rather than others.'

Dr Claire McCarthy, Consultant Neurologist

The group project was an opportunity for each delegate to learn how to both value and create this model of team working. The concept that everyone has the potential to be a leader was an important part of everyone's learning whilst on the course, and almost every delegate remarked on the 'flat hierarchy' of the group.

As a result of individuals both feeling enabled to speak out as equals, and appreciating that every person brings a unique and valuable set of skills, this became a valued aspect of the group's dynamic - and an important part of each person's learning to take forward into daily practice.

'I really appreciated the openness of the group… there was a lack of ceiling or hierarchy… and that gave me a bit more confidence in myself to speak up and contribute to ideas freely. I think in day-to-day clinical practice this needs to happen more. The course supported me with strategies to know what to do if you do come against that.'

Dr Anisha Doshi, Neurology Registrar (ST6)

'The journey, not the destination'

Starting out on the course, many delegates talked about having a level of uncertainty, in what to expect, in whether they were right for the course, in what they would learn - and whether they even wanted to learn it!
Whilst the group project, developing the concept of MS Unite and sharing its vision through Esther's story, was an incredible achievement, the journey which each delegate took personally and professionally as they developed it together was perhaps more significant.

Some individual's journey was one of learning the importance of self care, recognising their own strengths and developing confidence in stepping up, speaking out and leading themselves and others. Other individuals learned to appreciate skillsets different from their own, to see leadership in light of allowing other people to step up where they can bring the most value and best use their strengths.

'The whole process has been very helpful in relieving pressure - ridding myself of the fear that the whole of the responsibility and workload doesn't just fall on me before I volunteer for something.

A more important role of the leader is providing others the space and responsibility for work and I find it a more fulfilling method to sit back and listen to those who do things differently to me.'

Dr Ian Pomeroy, Consultant Neurologist

Beyond the MasterClass

The graduates of our first Leaders MasterClass are both honest that the skills they have learned will take constant practice to hone, and determined to hone them.

This course has not only brought out in delegates the skills they need to lead themselves and others, but the ability to see where they need to develop further, the confidence to seek out support, and the self-awareness to reflect and review.

Already, members of the first Leadership MasterClass have begun to utilise their new skills and understanding to lead change. Ian Pomeroy is leading work in Cheshire and Merseyside to implement the new national OPTIMUM MS pathway at a local level, and Ruth Stross is heading up the team to take the concept of MS Unite forward into a reality, whilst Claire McCarthy has created meaningful processes within her team to play to everyone's strengths. Ruth, Ian and Joela have all been contributing to educational webinars during the coronavirus pandemic as well, presenting with confidence and clarity.

'I appreciate that part of leadership is not being afraid of conflict, not being afraid to walk away from negotiation, and distinguishing wants from needs. But more importantly, for me, is the reinforcement that I can still be myself.'

Dr Leonora Fisniku, Consultant Neurologist

Interested in becoming a leader?

Our next MS Leaders MasterClass is set to run from Feb 2023 and applications are now open! Apply now.

Leadership for lasting change

The MS Leadership Academy equips clinicians with the skills, tools and confidence to lead change both locally and nationally.