19th May 2020

Inclusive Leadership: not for the few, not even for the many, but for all

By Joy O’Gorman, Student Adult Nurse, University of Plymouth.

Our cohort welcome conference, hosted by the Council of Deans 150 Leaders programme, exceeded my expectations. Pre-conceptions and nagging self-doubt did not stand a chance and were certainly not catching a free ride in my suitcase on the way home.

Value your difference and think of your vulnerabilities as your strength’, powerful words from Stacy Johnson, MBE. ‘There is no such thing as imposter syndrome if you are being your authentic self’ more powerful words skilfully added with silent pause for reflection.

So, what is it that makes me tick, that inspires me and that drives me?  What are my vulnerabilities?

No individual’s life is ideal or perfect, but I do feel determined to make the most of my life. This might possibly be due to my status as a mature student, with a 20 year career ahead of me as opposed to forty years.  However, I think passion runs deeper than age status. Despite this, my nagging self-doubt regularly questions my right to study in my late forties. How irrational is this and what a waste of energy? I am here rocking it with some incredible individuals, as are lots of mature students throughout the four nations and globe.

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to undertake a nursing degree and to have a life where I can provide person centred care and work with some amazing people. Challenges inspire me and collaboration makes me happy. To be in a room with 50 passionate healthcare students from different walks of life was not just inspiring, it was incredible.  There was a diverse mix of age, gender, ethnicity and backgrounds. We each held a genuine eagerness to learn more about our unique routes to the 150 Leaders programme.  As we listened to the conference coaches and engaged in the weekend’s activities, there was a tangible sense of increased personal freedom. We found ourselves being given permission to keep doing what we are doing but with even greater focus.  Peer to peer feedback helped re-enforce this message. My peers’ words will remain with me throughout my career and beyond.

How does inclusive leadership translate into practice?  One of Stacy Johnson’s key messages is to seek equity, to focus on dismantling the fence, so exclusion does not exist. Why build different levels of steps behind the fence to help others see over it, when you can simply remove the fence itself?

Stacy also signposted us to discussions on the false perception that harmony will produce better effect, by Phillips, Liljenquist and Neale (2008). Teams are proven to perform better when diverse and so we should actively seek difference. ‘Seek to deconstruct your beliefs and step outside your comfort zone’ are words that continue to echo and inspire.  Being mindful of our pre-conceptions can help challenge the status quo and foster truly transformative leadership.

I feel attuned to @150leaders’ goals of promoting interdisciplinary understanding, diversity and inclusive leadership. My drive and passion for collaboration has been upgraded; petrol no longer fuels my tank, I’m now flying on rocket fuel. Thank you @150leaders for an inspiring weekend and to the incredible speakers for their generosity of spirit.

I look forward to the opportunity of engaging with my personal coach and peers and to seeing some amazing leadership projects unfold over the coming months.  No doubt you will spot some collaborative approaches in mine as I draw on inspiration from modern day leaders.

I would encourage any healthcare student to follow @150leaders and consider applying to their conferences and future programmes.  You will not regret it and can gain so much from the experience. I know I have and will continue to do so.

Joy O’Gorman, Year Two, Adult Nursing Student, BSc (Hons), University of Plymouth.


Phillips, Liljenquist and Neale (2008). Is the pain worth the gain? [Online]. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167208328062 [Accessed 18th May 2020]