‘Inspire, Empower, Influence and Transform’: Compassionate Leadership Fellowship update

As palliative care providers, leadership development is key to building our teams and expanding our reach in healthcare provision. Even more so, compassionate leadership development touches on the goals of palliative care to reduce suffering, promote dignity, fight for justice and improve quality of life.

Compassion is a paradigm we speak of in relation to our work with those needing palliative care but what about the focus on how we lead, how our organisations are run, and how we bring forward the next generation of colleagues. Thus our focus is on holistic personal transformation in order to transform our settings and increase our influence.

The Compassionate Leadership Fellowship (CLF) has been made possible by partners Believers Church Medical College Hospital (BCMCH), Cairdeas International Palliative Care Trust (Cairdeas IPCT), Global Health Academy, University of Edinburgh (UoE), the Indian Association of Palliative Care (IAPC), and RMD Trust. We are also grateful for previous opportunities internationally for many involved including the LDI programme (thanks Frank Ferris) and innovative programmes in India and Uganda that helped shape our CLF.

In its structure, the CLF is taught using a blended learning modular format. Modules 1 and 3 are six days held in person at BCMCH in Thiruvalla, Kerala. These modules bookend Module 2 which has monthly online sessions. In addition to the taught sessions the CLF has a mentorship programme which is key to the transformational learning design. We are fortunate to have experienced mentors who attend all the training events as well as work on to one online. They have also committed to visiting each Fellow at their place of work.

Inauguration ceremony involved each partner representative lighting the flame at BCMCH.

February 18th of 2024 marked the official beginning of the CLF with an inauguration ceremony of music, prayers, and calls to compassionate care and leadership in the healthcare systems of India and beyond. We were proud to commence the first CLF cohort with 19 Fellows (16 from across India and 3 others from Rwanda, Kenya, and Nepal) and 13 Mentors, and great support from all partners involved.

The programme’s co-chairs, Prof Chitra Venkateswaran of BCMCH and Dr Mhoira Leng from Cairdeas IPCT, reminded us of the connection of previous leadership development programmes and our future to strengthen even more leaders in palliative care. We welcomed videos from our partners nationally and internationally with a warm reception from our hosts BCMCH.

Small group discussions were key during the CLF, as mentors sat with their fellows during the programme.

The first in-person module (February 19-24, 2024) allowed us to explore the characteristics of leadership and understanding oneself as a leader. We are using the widely recognised Leadership Development Index which offers 5 exemplary characteristics for effective leadership. We explored these together including our personal integrity, how we inspire and enable others, how we effectively challenge and support change and how we do this within a compassionate supportive environment. There was plenty to reflect on and learn even for the ‘experts.’ Our Fellows used a creative approach to present “Who am I as a Leader,” helping us get to know each other but also establish our leadership strengths and areas for growth.

A core aspect of leadership development is self-awareness, so we utilised tools with expert facilitation and then added group work, activities, and self-refection to help deepen our understanding of ourselves and how this impacts others. For example, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator gives insight on how we re-energize, interpret the world around us, make decisions and order our world. The KELP tool explores our preferred learning style, and we will use these foundational tools during the whole CLF programme to support our fellows in teaching, leading teams, and negotiating with others more effectively.

Our time together in February 2024 culminated in a leadership development plan (LDP) which Fellows will finalise in sessions with their Mentor. In addition to planning for personal development, the Fellows are agreeing to plan leadership activities that follow the S.M.A.R.T.P.A. guidelines (i.e., Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound, Person-responsible, and including Accountability.)

Classroom activities included individual and group presentations, role plays, and other activities to help visualise the taught concepts.

We look forward to the ongoing interactions and growing bond between each Mentor and Fellow, as they journey through transformational compassionate leadership development and as we together form a crucial community of practice. We now embark on monthly teaching session online covering topics such as strategic planning, team building and dynamics, organisational development, teaching, and research, supported by national and global experts.

Our fellows have shared feedback already, so early in the CLF programme. After the first in-person module together, fellows took turns to write and share the following:

“It was a wonderful, fantastic self-introspective workshop. Really enjoyed the way it was scheduled and conducted.”
“Here is a heart filled with gratitude to our Organizers and Mentors. Trust and fun filled new friendships. Experienced, learned and grew more than I ever expected. Here’s a changed me to Model the way, Inspire, Enable others, Challenge and Encourage the hearts.”
“Just wrapped up an amazing workshop. Great learnings and looking forward to more. Thank you all.”
“Thanks to Dr Chitra, Dr Mhoira, Dr Leejia and all those involved in careful planning and execution of 1st CLF ever. It was a great learning experience. My take home message is not to waste our energy on things we can’t change. Instead concentrate on what we can change… not to forget my mentors… all of you who will have a hand in a changed ME.”
A lovely afternoon in on the Backwaters of Kerala, India brought sessions of Encourage the Heart, shared leadership journeys, and times to connect and grow as a group.

As we look to the months ahead, there is transformational growth in our journey together from knowing who we are as a leader to becoming changemakers in compassionate care. The CLF is not in the numbers only of 19 fellows with 13 mentors, interlocking 6 countries in 2 in-person sessions, 10 online sessions, and over 190 mentorship meetings. Rather, there is boundless impact through this compassionate leadership development, in ourselves and for our teams and health systems, our patients and their families.

Quality palliative care for all is comes from the development of compassionate leaders, and now that we have begun, the sky is the limit.

Note: This article is authored by Ms Hannah Ikong and is a republication from the Cairdeas International Palliative Care Trust’s  blog.

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