Opinion: Monique Carayol | Brave Leadership in the NHS
Monique Carayol, Leadership Coach and Co-Founder of the Bravery in the Boardroom movement, shares her thoughts on inspiring brave leadership
I’m an ex-NHS director, and I had a 20 year career in the NHS, starting off in an administrative role and navigating my way into the boardroom. I was an Executive Director of Strategy and Transformation for just under 5 years and Lead Covid-19 Recovery Director for the first 12 months of the pandemic.
"I use the term brave to keep it simple... Being a brave leader is about doing the right thing even when it feels uncomfortable."
I left the NHS in early 2021 to pursue my passion of helping people to fulfil their career and leadership potential and support more people and organisations to lead bravely. I founded Your New Avenue – a coaching and leadership development consultancy and we’re currently working with a number of NHS organisations and networks to deliver 1:1 coaching, leadership development programmes, masterclasses and keynote presentations to help build brave leadership capability and capacity.
What is Brave Leadership?
I use the term brave to keep it simple. In my view, brave leadership encompasses courageous, authentic, inclusive, compassionate and collaborative leadership. It’s about stepping outside your comfort zone. Being a brave leader is about doing the right thing even when it feels uncomfortable. It’s about standing up, serving and empowering people and doing that continuously. It’s the opposite to command and control, top down leadership.
"How we can further turn the dial on developing senior diverse talent pipelines and inclusive leadership across the NHS to achieve more diversity in Boardrooms?"
I believe what makes great leadership is the ability to be brave in actions – not just words. You should lead in your own way and bring your uniqueness and diversity into senior roles as you progress in your career.
Why am I focussing on it?
I want to see boardrooms more representative of the communities and staff they serve. When I joined the board, I was the youngest and only black director (and also a mum of three). So I have lived experience of being in the minority at the most senior level.
Certainly, representation matters but I want to see organisations become truly inclusive, not just ticking the ‘representation box’, but accepting diversity and difference and creating environments where everyone can thrive, fulfil their potential and do their best work.
"brave leadership isn't about washing away feelings of fear. There will be many times when you’ll feel afraid to act"
I co-founded the Bravery in the Boardroom movement with Woodrow Mercer Healthcare and we’ve challenged ourselves and others as to how we can further turn the dial on developing senior diverse talent pipelines and inclusive leadership across the NHS to achieve more diversity in Boardrooms. We kicked off in early 2022 with me hosting a series of live roundtable Q&A webinars with panels of senior NHS executives and non-executives from ethnically diverse backgrounds sharing their experience and journeys.
How do you start putting brave leadership into practice?
Walk the talk. Do what it is you’re asking others to do. Do what you said you will. And be honest when you haven’t done it and explain why.
Listen to understand. Don’t simply defend or respond, but understand where people are coming from, how they're feeling and where they're at. We can enable and empower our teams so much more if we truly understand their needs and are brave enough to get out of their way!
Create safe spaces. Your teams won’t ‘bring their authentic self to work’ if they don't feel safe; they need to trust that they'll be accepted and not judged. If you want to build a dynamic, diverse team, start by embracing difference – don’t be afraid to recruit people who look, think and work differently to you! Welcome and encourage their ideas and suggestions, be supportive when things go wrong and give constructive feedback when expectations are not met.
And finally, brave leadership isn't about washing away feelings of fear. There will be many times when you’ll feel afraid to act. But taking that step may encourage others to follow your lead. And that’s how I see the movement growing – by encouraging, supporting and challenging each other to lead bravely.
Founder of Bravery in the Boadroom and Your New Avenue, Ex-NHS Director email@example.com / @BraveryITB
Genevieve Shaw, Founder and Editor-in-chief