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18 March 2022
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Turning the pages of thought leadership

By Dr Rammina Yassaie

FMLM Trainee Steering Group representative for the North, NHS Regional Clinical Leadership Fellow, and GP ST2 in Harrogate

We have just passed the six-month mark of the FMLM Trainee Steering Group’s (TSG’s) Bitesize Book Club, so it seemed a good time to reflect on how it is going. The book club is a collaboration with FMLM’s jointly owned journal, BMJ Leader, which involves a monthly leadership book club twitter chat, with colleagues participating from across the world to discuss books which offer helpful learning for clinical leaders.

The book club kicked off in October 2021 when I reviewed Professor Michael West’s book, Compassionate Leadership: Sustaining Wisdom, Humanity and Presence in Health and Social Care. This brought together people from different sectors and backgrounds to share, discuss and reflect on the need for compassionate leadership, which has become increasingly important in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hundreds of people liked, tweeted and commented during the ‘chat’, which clearly demonstrated the power of this book. High profile healthcare sector leaders, including Suzie Bailey, Director of Leadership and Organisational Development at The King’s Fund, and Professor Michael West himself, joined in; his closing words were profound:

“Compassion and compassionate leadership do not require learning new skills, it’s reminding ourselves of who we truly are; it is such a joy and a privilege to have the book as a focus of the book club, thank you!”

Our second book club in November 2021 focused on Nancy Kline’s Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind, which drew colleagues from the coaching community to reflect on the impact this book has had on their coaching practice. Many experienced leadership coaches reflected that they would recommend this book to anyone wanting to improve their thinking and listening skills, and noted that both thinking and listening are some of the most powerful tools, but are often underused. Alexis Hutson, Executive Coach and FMLM Applied Associate recalled her favourite quote from Kline’s work “Ask yourself, is what I am about to say more important than what you are about to think?”

December 2021 brought us Matthew Syed’s Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking, where TSG representative, Dr Yang Chen, took us through an in-depth review of how this book highlights the importance of cognitive diversity to find better and more creative solutions. Colleagues joined in to share the relevance of this book in their leadership development programmes.

The New Year brought deeper reflection with Dr Hannah Baird, our TSG Chair, reviewing one of Brené Brown’s classics, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, which emphasises how the courage to be vulnerable is critical for authentic leadership and can be hugely inspiring. These powerful reflections rang true with many during the chat.

The TSG’s London lead, Dr Kim Nurse, led February’s book club with a review of The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness, by Professor Steve Peters. This book clearly resonated with those of us battling our “inner chimps” and there was some interesting discussion around the interpretation of “chimp” behaviour among NHS hierarchies.

This month's book clube was led by one of our Scotland TSG representatives, Dr Mairi Finlay, who took us through Head, Hand, Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century, by David Goodhart. The discussion focused on the societal value we place on the different roles within the health and social care system, and the role clinical leaders can and should have in ensuring parity of esteem.  

Time has has raced by and we now have the April book club in our sights, which will feature Emma Dabiri’s What White People Can Do Next, where we will take some time to discuss meaningful inclusivity and anti-racism in the NHS; something that could not be more topical.

The Bitesize Book Club started as a simple idea to generate discussion on and around leadership. Over the past six months we have covered a broad range of topics relevant to all current and aspiring leaders. Upcoming book clubs will spotlight Turn the Ship Around, by David Marquet, which will be aptly led by our TSG Armed Forces Lead, Dr Megan Chamberlain, and Susan Cain’s Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, which will enable us to consider the concept of introversion in the leadership context.

The book club has served as a platform for colleagues to recommend books and other useful development resources to one another, as well expand existing reading lists. We have seen libraries offer to source books for their communities on the back of Bitesize Book Club recommendations and, most importantly, we have seen colleagues reflect on how they have enjoyed engaging in our Twitter book club as part of the #BMJLeaderchat, as a way to easily dip in and out of important topics pertinent to healthcare leadership.

We have hugely enjoyed reading, sharing and discussing these books with you. Do join us as we explore more great books in the months ahead.

The Bitesize Book Club is held monthly on every third Thursday at 19:00 - 20:00 GMT on Twitter. Follow @BMJLeader and @FMLM_TSG #BMJLeaderchat to get involved.


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