We believe that leadership is deeply personal and relational. As Viscount Slim said, ““There is nobody who cannot vastly improve their powers of leadership by a little thought and practice.”

From our personal experience, we’ve seen that investing time in developing leaders and their teams can have a profound impact on the quality of care for their patients and their people.

At Staff College, people often talk about the fact that we’re a bit different. While we remain agnostic about styles of leadership and leadership theory, instead believing that leadership is all about context, we have some guiding principles that inform our approach and ensures that our programmes are potent, engaging and valuable.

Key principles

Focus on awareness

At the heart of our approach is our belief in the profound importance of people. Leadership is all about the quality of relationships that leaders have with others. As such, our focus is on awareness raising as a route to developing greater self and social awareness. We help individuals to understand their assumptions, patterns and triggers. Once they can learn to notice these, they can begin to manage themselves better in difficult moments. Ultimately this is the foundation of individual becoming better versions of themselves and building better relationships with others.

The power of groups and feedback

We use the power of small group working to provide a safe space for individuals to learn about themselves. Feedback is triangulated through the use of formal video reviews, so that individuals can see for themselves how they’re seen by others, peer to peer feedback and faculty led feedback. Individuals develop their own ability to give and receive feedback as a foundation for continuous learning.

Experiential learning

We believe that individuals learn through experience, rather than by being ‘taught.’ As such, programmes provide a range of challenging experiences for individuals, testing the abilities that effective leaders need to have and providing the opportunity for reflection and review, helping individuals understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Support and challenge

We recognise the significant difficulties leaders in healthcare face. As such we balance our support and empathy for the complexity they face and their personal vulnerabilities with a level of challenge and provocation that pushes leaders to take responsibility for their actions. This sensitive challenge helps individuals grow their confidence and find the courage to step up and take on roles and responsibilities they wouldn’t have done before.

Strategic thinking and changing mind-sets

We encourage leaders to step back and take a more strategic view of their current context. Leaders are often so caught up in the day to day fire-fighting that they lose sight of the bigger picture and as such, there can be a lack of forward thinking and planning. To take this step requires a significant mind-set shift for individuals and our searching testing of individuals assumptions and thinking about leadership helps them to start to think differently.

The difference that makes a difference

The people who attend our programmes often mention that they like the fact that ‘we do things differently’. It is often difficult to pin down the ‘difference that makes a difference’ but includes:

Members discover the truth about themselves as leaders by

• Extensively viewing visual feedback, which not only connects at an emotional level, but prevents them denying behaviours. People believe their own data.
• Being encouraged to challenge each other, as a way of assisting in learning and also giving support.
• Receiving feedback from Directing Staff (DS), their group peers and their own senses, the power of which combination ensures the learning occurs at an experiential level.

Directing Staff (our term for faculty members) are unusual, in that they

• Initiate and sustain a generous relationship.
• Lead by example during the course and bring extensive leadership experience to it.
• Come from diverse careers and organisations – the healthcare community, the military and the commercial sector.
• Are mutually rigorous in their testing of material for inclusion and examination of all approaches.
• Are committed learners, who are full participants in the unfolding of the courses.
• Are always open to change.
• Do not pathologise cynicism and resistance but work with it, understanding that this is what leaders are contending with daily.
• Are immune to much of the ‘fashion and gimmick’ nature prevalent in the field of leadership development. The test is ‘usefulness’ not ‘newness’.

Programmes include powerful activities

• Low power-point per hour ratio. Experiencing and engaging in dialogue is privileged over lecturing.
• Involving real tasks, with no case studies or role play.
• Keeping members in the here and now.
• Creating a challenging as well as supportive learning environment.