Linda Heaney is Consultant Psychiatrist at Avon and Wiltshire NHS Partnership Trust. Along with her clinical role she works one day week as Training Programme Director at Severn Deanery………
Linda was at her first ELEVATE residential with The Glass Lift team. She looked at the menu for dinner, and her heart sank. Gravadlax. What on earth was that? ‘I thought that gravadlax was the sort of thing that leaders ate all the time, and I was not one of those people….. so I couldn’t be a leader.’
Linda realised early on in the ELEVATE programme that she had a fixed view of leadership. Leaders, in Linda’s mind, were driven, type A, alpha types. Outspoken. People who felt on top of what they were doing and that other people listened to. And often Linda felt that she, and other female colleagues that she’d observed, had ‘hidden behind smartly dressed men in suits with loud voices and have not seen ourselves as leaders because of that’.
Meeting the other women on ELEVATE started to challenge this perception.
Familiar of course with many psychological theories, Linda still found plenty to learn. As she reflects, in her career development process so far in her life, she’s been encouraged to focus on areas of weakness and what has gone wrong and try to address them.
ELEVATE turned this completely around for her, instead positive psychology principles were applied and Linda started to identify and build on her strengths.
It’s meant that she has started to put her head above the parapet with new ideas at work rather than doing only what she perceived that other people wanted her to do – especially those in authority. She’s finding her voice and identity as a leader as well as a doctor.
Linda describes it as being like a nut that is emerging from its shell – and reflects that overall, her experience on the programme has been much more about losing and letting go of things that were holding her back rather than adding new skills and ideas. It’s allowing her to shine as she is. This is very different from her long-held belief that being a leader meant ‘acting’ as the charismatic extrovert that she has never felt herself to be.
But Linda isn’t only a psychiatrist. She is a mum and wife too. She feels, like so many other women, that she is spinning many plates. Talking to other participants, she found that her experience was mirrored by others.
‘I never feel completely on top of things because I’ll remember I haven’t paid the kids’ dinner money or I have to leave a meeting before the end to get to school in time. But listening to the others, I really understand that it is not a reason to feel inadequate. If anything, it’s the opposite.’
At home, exploring what helps to build her confidence has directly led to her taking a new approach with her shy eleven year old. They are applying the same lessons alongside each other. He’s now becoming much more assertive in a kind and authentic way – and so is she.
Linda’s view of leadership has been turned upside down. Rather than going on a programme to learn new skills, she has learnt how to use her existing ones to her own and her organisation’s benefit.
She has talked about her strengths in an interview – and got the job. She has taken on new challenges and succeeded, has asked for help and what’s more she’s become more vocal in meetings.
And when she is met with a menu she’s unfamiliar with? She Googles it or asks someone. And feels pleased to learn something new. It turns out that not all leaders eat gravadlax!
Download A portrait of Linda Heaney
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