You can’t always get what you want

Church has the ability to calm, inspire and on occasion surprise me.  Today it delivered all three.

Now I’m not one for coincidence or ‘signs’ but the parallels between my current work life and the topic of the sermon was uncanny. The team from OneLife Leadership (www.onelifeleaders.com) had just delivered a conference for the church youth and Liz Bewley was sharing how it had gone.  What then followed was a leadership masterclass unlike any other I had heard before.

I hadn’t actually expected to spend the morning exploring values based leadership in church.  I’ve always associated that type of thing with work and to be honest I’ve become a little weary of them.  So I wasn’t immediately enthused when we were asked to speak to our neighbour about what we do in our lives that could be considered ‘leadership’?

I trotted out my stock answer – ‘I’m a doctor’.  I also threw in that I’m a mother but the person seemed more taken with the doctor aspect.  Apparently we doctors are considered leaders.  We lead teams of people to help the sick.

And I suppose that’s true about the clinical work.  I certainly find it the most rewarding part of my job but it’s also the easiest.  However with that comes the potential to stagnate.

It was the word ‘potential’ that resonated with me throughout the sermon.  To my mind it’s the single most positive word in the English language and one I usually associate with hope.

Of late it’s been a word that has had me feeling claustrophobic, backed into a corner and compromised.

How can ones potential be viewed as something so negative?  Well, try taking on a senior leadership position in the NHS.  My taking on Clinical Director has been met with two polarising responses – mass enthusiasm or sceptical surprise.  No middle ground it seems.

Trying to articulate the how and the why has been really difficult.  My response is not so negative as to reply ‘well someone had to do it and I’ve the skills and the expertise so it might as well be me.  Even if that is in fact true.  Equally I’m not bursting with enthusiasm either ‘I really want to make significant change and impact on the lives of older people’  But  there again that’s also true.

I have wrestled with all of this as I try to align my core values as a person with what I am as a Geriatrician and that of the organisation. It’s super hard!

I’ve tried to get clarity by speaking to some very wise and trusted friends and colleagues.  They’ve been great but it wasn’t until I heard this that it all fell into place:

‘Leadership is not about titles, positions or flow charts.  It’s about one life influencing another.’

John C Maxwell

The next 15mins were essentially a replaying of a conversation I had had just the other day.  It was bizarre!  I had spoke about how the expectation of change is naive and unrealistic in the short term.  What I hoped to do was influence.  Even just one facet or one persons way of thinking in order to guide pathways, policies etc.

The sermon went on to talk about perseverance.  Things take time and you should take that time to do things well and for eternity (possibly not directly applicable to the NHS but you get the idea).

Finally was this idea that perspective is important.  Lots and lots of them so you can digest and distill in order to do the right thing.

All of this is built on a foundation of values.  Being true to them means you will ultimately be true to yourself.

I had wanted this to be easy but then there’s no potential to learn, grow or even fail.

So as the service wrapped up with the inspiring words from Haggai 2:1-5 ‘Be strong, now get to work’

I thought of the other great orator, Mick Jagger ‘You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need’

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