Bite-sized leadership

27 June 2024
2.87 Min Read

By NZSAwebadmin
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I have spent the last few days at the inaugural South Pacific Anaesthesia Meeting (SPAM) at the Marriott Momi Bay in Fiji. This genius idea from the clever people at the Joint Anaesthesia Faculty Auckland (JAFA) Trust (the same people who bring us AQUA) was a roaring success. Catching up with colleagues under the warm Fijian sun, whilst families splashed in tropical seas and delighted in fire dancing felt like the perfect balance of CME and restoration. The fact that the talks were thought-provoking, diverse and engaging was a very fantastic icing on the cake.

It was a great honour to be invited to speak on leadership alongside my esteemed colleague and incoming vice president of NZSA, Dr Jonathan Panckhurst. Our talk, humorously titled ‘Bite-sized leadership’ – a nod to the fact that leadership is far from being bite-sized, was a reflection of our shared passion for the subject. We believe that leadership in Aotearoa Anaesthesia is of utmost importance and requires a collective effort for a significant change.

Our profession and specialty rely on the volunteer mahi of our non-clinical leaders. From supervising trainees and writing the curriculum, to advocating the importance of anaesthetists with Te Whatu Ora; without non-clinical leaders, we do not have anaesthesia. Further – because of the all-encompassing nature of our specialty, anaesthetists permeate non-clinical leadership throughout the rest of health, whether it be facilitating courses, leading discussions at Manatū Hauora, or sitting on boards.

We do not have to look far to see the value in these roles. This e-zine is full of reports of the excellent initiatives our leaders bring us; WebAIRS, the NZ ASM and AQUA, and the Pacific Anaesthetic Assistants Course for example. Our joint meeting in Pōneke with NZNC last week reminded me of the power of collaboration in the anaesthesia community. We truly are lucky with the leaders that we have.

Our leaders are passion-led. They fiercely believe in representing their communities, advocating for patient safety, bringing visibility to the populations they represent, and advancing our specialty. But they don’t always feel supported by their departments (although there are some fantastic and heartwarming examples from across the motu, and I am forever grateful to the Waitematā Anaesthesia department for their support of my mahi). They don’t feel well-equipped with the skills to perform leadership roles. They don’t feel that they achieve much balance between their clinical, leadership and personal roles. Repeatedly, we see the same few people doing multiple roles; in fact, in a survey we performed for the purposes of this talk, each non-clinical leader was doing, on average, five leadership roles.

We repeatedly hear from those with immense potential and talent that they are unsure they have the capacity for the enormity of these important leadership roles. In this post-COVID world, we see people prioritising their lives outside of work, ring-fencing their time with whānau and friends. I think this is a fantastic and important step for doctors, and I suspect that Generation Z will continue this trajectory to a more sustainable life.

But where does that leave non-clinical leadership? It is clear that we need it, and that we need to make it more accessible. We need to make the skills required easily learned, the roles less daunting, and the time commitments flexible and focused. Departments need to make non-clinical time for people in these roles a priority.

Leadership is crucial. It is thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding when it’s achievable.
We just need to make it bite-sized.