Thursday, 27 August 2020 22:53

5 leadership lessons from Covid-19

Blog: August 2020

Personal leadership lessons from the last 5 months by Dr Errum Mumtaz (GP and Next Gen leader in Nottingham)

Following my participation in Next Generation GP, in January this year I was inspired to take up a new post as a Digital Fellow in Nottingham alongside a 4 session salaried job. As a new GP, it was an exciting but scary time. The balance of clinical and non-clinical work was great. I was enthusiastic and ready to take on the world… but nothing had prepared me for Covid-19. 

For all of us, recent months have been a time of rapid change and adaptation in both our personal and professional lives. Here are a few leadership lessons that I’ve reflected on along the way:


1) We don’t know what we don’t know. In a rapidly evolving situation, you have to do the best you can with the facts you have in front of you. As clinicians, we were bombarded with new protocols and information in the first few weeks of Covid-19. No one had all the correct answers. I’ve realised that as a leader you do make mistakes at times; the key is to accept those mistakes and learn from them, learning and adapting as you go.

2) In times of crisis, leaders need to remain optimistic. Family, friends, patients and even colleagues are looking to you for hope. I soon realised that it was so important for me to be constantly looking for solutions, and not inflating the problem.


3) Keep purpose at the forefront of people’s minds.  In primary care, we often talk about implementation plans and workflow protocols when making a change in practice. But this pandemic didn’t give us a chance to do things how we normally would- all plans went out the window.  Leaders were adapting their approach with a key PURPOSE in mind: to ensure the safety of staff, patients and families, without compromising the provision of healthcare. I have become very aware that a strong leader encourages those around them to roll up their sleeves and do things they never thought they would have to do in their job, for the sake of the bigger picture. 

4) Look after those around you. For me, a good leader recognises the toll a situation takes on their team. Everyone’s thresholds for coping are different, and this is important to address. During this pandemic the boundaries between personal and professional lives were blurred. Some colleagues took it in their stride, whilst others struggled emotionally and physically.  As a leader, whilst it’s important to recognise individual strengths, it is equally important to recognise those that are struggling and make appropriate adjustments. We are all most productive when we know the people in charge are looking out for us.

5) Last but not least, you must look after yourself. Recognising your own limits, asking for support when required, and maintaining healthy habits are more important than ever in times of crisis. I realise we are going to be in it for the long haul- and you can only do this if you look after your own mental health and wellbeing. If those you are leading see that you are looking after yourself, they too will make their health a priority. A healthy team is a happy and productive team and it's important to lead by example.

These are just some of the leadership lessons I’ve learnt in the pandemic so far, and I know there will be many more to come in the months ahead.