Give me a break…

Kirstie Stott, an NHS Graduate Management Trainee, reflects on the importance of leadership within the NHS.

It’s difficult to believe that only four years ago I didn’t know, or perhaps I should say I didn’t understand the difference between a manager and a leader.

How naïve was I? Especially given that leadership and its effectiveness in the NHS must be one of the greatest talked about topics currently.  Everything can be solved with great leadership can’t it?

Prior to commencing the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme, I worked as a nurse and had done since 1998 when I began my training.  I have worked ‘on the frontline of care’ for 12 years before I really became aware of leadership and its great powers.  So, why hadn’t I made the connection between great services and leadership before now?

In order to begin to understand this mystery myself, I wanted to explore what leadership means to me – what does great leadership look like?   Although I am currently studying a Masters in Leadership and Service Improvement, and this has helped aid my thinking around what leadership is, it doesn’t actually show me what a great leader looks like.

What does a great leader look like – could you identify them in a line up? Is it the charismatic figure that stands and addresses the nation with a speech usually written on their behalf?  Is it the person with the biggest office, or the car parking space, or simply someone who knows how to motivate a team.  The answer is no.

Leadership is about being human and either inspiring people to take them with you – creating followers (which is what people expect). Or sometimes it’s about pushing people in front of you, knowing their potential and helping them achieve it –  I like this idea – and I definitely think it was what happened in my case and so I am determined to repay that kindness wherever I can.

Being an active Tweeter, there have recently been some fantastic blogs and tweets that talk about being authentic (and that show humility and emotion). And showing emotion is ok to do, in fact it’s brilliant!   No longer should we hide behind a power-dressing, superhero, “I’m in control” façade.

I say let’s make a pact. Let’s allow ourselves to be emotional, to say what matters and to ‘feel’ what we do every day and what we strive for.  Let’s make it ok and not hide away from being human after all there is now much evidence to support this style of leadership and the effect it can have on our patients. The NHS is embroiled in emotion, every day staff and patients go through life changing events and the NHS offers care and compassion to ease and support this.

So for me this is a real light bulb moment.  Why in 2010 wasn’t I aware of the difference between a manager and leader?  Simple, because I hadn’t experienced it!

When I first met the CEO of my current trust, one of the things he mentioned was about people with potential just needing that one break.  This really resonated for me as I have always strived to make more of a difference and lead, so far mostly a little ‘L’ style of leadership.

It wasn’t until 2010 that I was given ‘my break’, the chance to showcase my passion, drive and love of the NHS.  To meet with fantastic people who are like minded, including all my lovely twitter friends who support me every day, possibly unaware of the impact they have on me.

As a result of ‘my break’ I have achieved beyond my expectations already.  I allow myself to dream, dream of what I can do to help be part of a large group of beautiful people who share my thinking, passion, drive and love of the NHS.  Who stand in unity to ensure the NHS is there for all those we love, including ourselves, our children and generations to come. So thank you to that person who gave me my break and to those who continually support, challenge and develop me.

So, who do you know who has the potential to make a real difference, who wants to stand in unity but hasn’t had ‘their break’ yet? Who are they, and can you give it to them?

Kirstie Stott

Kirstie Stott is an NHS Graduate Management Trainee (GMTS) 2012 Cohort. She originally trained as a registered nurse in 1998 and worked in a nursing capacity for 14 years.

She started NHS life as an Accident and Emergency nurse in 2001 and went on to be the youngest national Emergency Care Practitioner for Yorkshire Ambulance Service working to a senior clinical level.

She is a certified Neuro Linguistic Practitioner after successfully gaining a place on the INNOV8 Accelerate Programme.

In 2011 she beat off 12,350 applicants to gain a place on the prestigious NHS GMTS. Her first placement was at Sheffield Teaching Hospital as an Assistant General Manager working on the integration of two directorates. She then spent 9 weeks working at The Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management developing business cases and strategy planning where she is now regional lead for the FMLM steering group in the north.

Her final placement is at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS FT as a strategic planner leading on the Integrated Business Plan.

Her passions are in equality and diversity in the NHS and understanding and working towards removing the barriers that stop women and BME staff achieving senior leadership positions.

She also is currently regional lead for NHS Change Day 2014 Yorkshire and Humber.

She lives in Sheffield with her partner and 2 children. Outside of work she enjoys music, and being the best mum and having fun with her 2 boys.


  1. Andy Whitehead says:

    Really good post Kirstie – I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I strongly believe that excellent leadership is the key to delivering brilliant NHS services (and any other services for that matter!) If OK with you I will repost this on my own website in a few days time.

  2. Vikki Cochran says:

    Hi Kirstie,

    I really enjoyed your article. I have been in the NHS for almost 10 years and have become a ‘manager’ for the first time within my time here. When I came in, there were a number of old school managers who were fairly sceptical about change, managing change and actually using it as a tool for good and I vowed I would not end up like that.

    10 years later, I know that there are restraints in the way in which we work, but often these are self-imposed rather than forced upon us. I think we should be inspired at work and understand that it is a privalege working in such a diverse organisation as ours.

    I am not clinical, merely an administrator, as one clinician kindly put it, however I think it is important that every role should challenges current practices and strive to deliver the best care we can for our patients and local community. After all, if you were a patient, where would you want to be treated? If the answer isn’t where you work, then you need to work out how to change it.

    Vikki, Acute Trust, South West England