I have just completed a leadership course and it has helped me in many different ways. It was a leadership course for women. One thing that I found difficult to get my head around though is the emphasis that is placed on appearance and its relationship to impact as a leader. I am not naive - I do fully appreciate the need to present oneself in an appropriate manner. And I know the theory about how little the recipient is said to receive from what one says - rather it is how you present your message (and that includes appearance) that is most important. As a non make-up wearer it is a little disconcerting to constantly hear that dressing up to enhance one's femininity is important in leadership. We talked about authenticity, and no-one was saying to me that I wouldn't make it as a leader without make-up. But there is a fairly common view that it's a bit odd not to want to present oneself in a more traditional manner. I know that male leaders will have input to help them with their personal appearance so as to make the desired impact, but we would never get as personal as the make-up issue with men.
As a nurse educator I talk to my students about the importance of appearance - in relation to their roles in practice and the impact that appearance can have on how the patient will receive them. I also make sure that - when I am in the lecture theatre or in group classroom situations - I dress appropriately as a role model for students. In national meetings, I also am aware of the dress code and pretty much adhere to it. But - we should be advocating for women as leaders who have something important to say, and should not be perpetuating the ways in which men and women have dealt with appearance differently.
A very personal perspective........
Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Lord Willis has said that 'it is absolutely imperative that nurses are provided with the right education and skills to equip them for the role'. Peter Carter believes that nursing education (pre-registration) should be examined so that it can be improved in ways that will facilitate better care. Key to the current debate that is going on, is that compassion and dedication to the profession need to be strengthened. I am particularly interested in these areas - and I believe that most students are compassionate and are working towards their qualification for the right reason. However, what the debate continues to highlight is the need to ensure that we bring people on to our courses that have the potential to achieve not just the academic requirements, but also the development of those characteristics that somehow 'make' a nurse. I am a strong advocate of the need to ensure that nursing students are educated to degree level - and for that reason we must ensure that we select intelligent people with the capacity to achieve the intellectual requirements for nursing. As well as that, we need to find ways to select people with the potential to enhance care continually, people who are strong advocates of the profession and the patients (and others) that they work with, and people who will have the ability to lead the practice of the future. We cannot, of course, leave all these things to the process of selection. Our education must provide the environment to allow people to flourish and to grow personally and professionally. I am certainly not complacent and will always strive to improve my own practice as an educator, but I do feel that the educators that I work with and that I know are all committed to ensuring that the students who exit are programmes are the best nurses that they can be.