Leaders use social influence to realise goals bigger than what could be accomplished by any one person alone.
Leadership contributions can be at micro, meso or macro levels within a field of practice, or wider society (Dunbar & Winston, 2015).
Leadership starts with leading self, then leading others, and then also navigating organisations and systems (Walker, Wilcox, Powell & Muir, 2017); a journey rather than a destination.
Why focus on leadership?
Practitioners working with displaced people are already in positions of leadership due to working within an emerging field of practice. This is characterised by a high probability that:
- you’ll be the only occupational therapist within your team or organisation,
- there will be few senior practitioners with comparable experiences to draw on,
- you’ll be leading colleagues, students, volunteers, community as part of your role.
Therefore practitioners need to intentionally develop leadership skills rather than ‘falling into it’ (Heard, 2014).
There are few formal learning opportunities and mentoring for occupational therapists in less traditional areas of practice (Lapointe, Baptiste, vonZweck, & Craik, 2013), and practitioners may also need to un-learn socialised ideas of leadership (Davidson, 2012).
Leadership within a field of practice
Many challenges experienced in occupational therapy practice (Murray, Turpin, Edwards & Jones, 2015) could be prevented or remediated with a stronger ecosystem of leadership within a field of practice.
Our field of practice needs to strengthen leadership till there are:
- systems and supports for safe and ethical practices with displaced people,
- practitioners who routinely contribute to strengthen the field of practice beyond their individual role,
- capabilities and capacity to grasp strategic opportunities as a field of practice.
Ways to develop leadership
We can develop leadership everyday. Some suggestions are below.
Opportunities to assess:
- Review the Healthcare Leadership Model to identify next steps in your development.
- Read this article and use the Leadership Practices Inventory (Fleming-Castaldy & Patro, 2012).
- Use this Collaborative Leadership Skills Self Assessment offered by Turning Point.
Opportunities to learn:
- Enrol in Leading change in times of disruption a free self-paced introduction to change within complex systems using U-Theory.
- Learn leadership skills needed to implement sustainable improvements and the type of leadership needed when understanding large-scale change.
- Enrol in an online School for Change Agents to stretch your leadership skills.
Opportunities to act:
- Volunteer with the leaders in your National Occupational Therapy Association to learn from them.
- Mentor someone to spark reflections and self-directed learning.
- Share resources and your learnings to Leadership4OT on Facebook.
Davidson, H. (2012). A Leadership Challenge for Occupational Therapy. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75 (8), 390 – 392.
Dunbar, S. & Winston, K. (Eds). (2015). An Occupational Perspective on Leadership; Theoretical and practical dimensions (2nd Ed). New Jersey, NJ: Slack Incorporated.
Flemling-Castaldy, R. P., & Patro, J. (2012). Leadership in Occupational Therapy: Self-Perceptions of Occupational Therapy Managers. Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 26 (2-3), 187 – 202.
Heard, C. (2014). Choosing the Path of Leadership in Occupational Therapy. The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy, 2 (1), Article 2.
Lapointe, J., Baptiste, S., vonZweck, C.M., & Craik, J.M. (2013). Developing the occupational therapy profession through leadership and mentoring- energizing opportunities. WFOT Bulletin, 68, 38 – 43.
Murray, C., Turpin, M., Edwards, I. & Jones, M. (2015). A qualitative meta-synthesis about challenges experienced in occupational therapy practice. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 78 (9), 534 – 546.
Walker, A., Wilcox. T., Powell, A., & Muir, K. (2017). The Navigator: Your guide to leadership for social purpose. Sydney, Australia: The Centre for Social Impact.