Celebrate Opinion

Taking responsibility: the true mark of leadership

Micheala Russell, Specialist Nurse, PJ Care

Leadership is about taking responsibility, and this is never truer than in care settings, where you are responsible not just for the team you are leading but the lives and wellbeing of those in your care.

At PJ Care, everything we do centres around the people we care for. As leaders, we cannot personally be there all the time, so we need to trust our teams and make sure they are aware of their responsibilities for giving our residents the best quality of life.

Trust for our team at PJ Care, where they provide specialist neurological residential care to people with a range of conditions, including acquired brain injuries, young onset dementia and Huntington’s, works both ways, however, and they need to be able to trust me, and the wider leadership team involved in making care decisions.

The best way to do this is to lead by example and take responsibility for my decisions. Being as open as possible about the process helps too, so staff can see my reasoning, and this builds trust and gives staff the confidence to take ownership of their work.

Being responsible is not just about when things go right, which fortunately is most of the time, but also when things go wrong, and this is the true test of leadership. Owning our mistakes allows us to learn from them and to put plans in place to prevent them happening again. Doing this as a collective allows everyone to learn and brings the team closer together.

In care, where your focus is people’s wellbeing, when something goes wrong it is easy to look for someone to blame, but, especially in care, blame has no value; the most important things are is to fix the problem and learn from it. Blame is rarely important; the resident and the learning are always important.

We need to celebrate successes as well. My job as a leader is not to take the glory but to share it with the team and to recognise their part in what we have achieved. I would not have achieved the recognition I have without the support and hard work of those around me, although the recognition is secondary to the success we achieve as a team in providing the best quality care. We do this by taking responsibility for everything we do.

Building relationships is also an important part of leadership. I often need to work with teams within and without PJ Care to ensure that our residents receive the best possible care, and sometimes priorities clash. But I will stand up for PJ Care and its residents where required, and compromise to achieve the right result in other situations – but having good relationships with people you work with is fundamental to this. Difficult conversations are made easier if you have an effective existing working relationship with people, who know you are focused on the residents’ best interests.

Also, my nursing background has an influence, as people on other teams appreciate my experience and know that I have the knowledge to justify clinical or costing decisions.

It would be easy to just lay down my responsibilities and impose them on others, but this would never work as the other people would resist and nobody would end up achieving what we need to. It’s about good communication and understanding how we are trying to achieve our targets. If we agree that we have the same aim – providing the best care to our residents – then the rest is easy, and we share our responsibilities to be the best we can be.

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