Leadership in a Flat World

Thursday, 26 September 2013

From 1900 to 2100

Medico-Chirurgical Hall

Prof. David Pendleton - Occupational Psychologist


Minute of meeting of the Society held on September 2013 in the Society Hall, Foresterhill. Dr Colin Hunter presided.

The President introduced his guest speaker, Professor David Pendleton. The President told members that Professor Pendleton is an occupational psychologist who's early work was on general practice consultations and that the resultant 'Pendleton rules' are still used. His talk was entitled 'Leadership in a Flat World'

Professor Pendleton started by describing his work on GP consultations when he explored issues around consultations. He came up with the concept of a 'cycle of care' - changes to people's wellbeing are happening all the time but are influenced by their understanding and other influences such as family pressure. They then consult and have concerns and expectations which may be difficult to identify. At the consultation, patients may commit to a course of action but whether they follow that course depends on their memory of the consultation, and their satisfaction as to whether their concerns had been addressed.

He had found that the patients' memories of the consultation was poor, many concerns were unaddressed and adherence to plans was poor resulting in little change to health. Research has shown that outcomes are better if the patient is involved with the consultation by way of an exchange of opinions - the doctor has to 'give away' some power to gain involvement.

He had developed a model with 7 tasks in consultations and studies have shown that following this model did help.

Professor Pendleton then moved to leadership, explaining that the 1980s saw an explosion in interest in leadership but without any coherent pattern. He asked whether leadership makes a difference and said that it did but a better question was when it makes a difference, the answer being that the biggest difference is when times are tough not in good times, with good leadership making a difference of between 13% and 25%. Good leadership improves an organisation's culture and climate thus encouraging discretionary effort leading to greater productivity and creativity and thus better outcomes.

He pointed out that leadership is not direct as there are lots of steps to get the desired outcomes some of which he detailed. Employee engagement is important and is mainly linked to their satisfaction with their immediate supervisor, so everybody with a leadership role, however minor, is important.

When leadership was looked at, various aspects became apparent such as strategic (long term vision, strategic direction); interpersonal (emotional level, relationships) and operational (details, specifics, delivering results). Bridging these aspects were things like planning and organisation, creating alignments (getting people involved), team working and identifying what is required.

Leaders need to be able to cope with pressure without taking everything on themselves nor putting others under pressure. Leaders should ideally be self controlled but also should be sensitive to others (social cognition) but these two attributes are not usually found in one individual so leaders cannot be equally good at everything and need well rounded teams to complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. People will have some strengths which are valuable but also some limitations, some of which can be corrected but others need to be worked round by getting others to help.

Professor Pendleton ended by saying that what happens in consultations or leadership can be analysed and desired outcomes can be defined and achieved.

The President invited questions which led to discussions about the difference between hospital doctors and GPs (teamwork & leadership is more important in hospital); the role of leaders in crises (leader needs to give clear instructions but once the crisis is over, he/she needs to revert to a more co-operative style otherwise that is bullying). Finally, he said that leadership skills are generic and that doctors should not be trained in them by other medics but in a more general setting.

The President proposed a vote of thanks.

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