During LGBTQ+ history month, two deputy chief pharmacists tell us what visible leadership means to them
For me, leadership is about being able to be authentic and to allow my personality to be intrinsic to my leadership style. As a professional, feeling able to show the whole of my identity hasn’t always been easy and I have often struggled in terms of whether to be open about being a gay man in the workplace. I’ve worked in a whole plethora of teams within the NHS and I found that how comfortable I felt about being open about my sexuality differed significantly depending on the organisation I worked in.
One of my most significant negative interactions was when working as a pharmacist visiting a GP surgery to support with their medicines optimisation work streams.
I remember the homophobic conversations in the room which made me feel uncomfortable and I remember almost feeling that I had recoiled into a shell of who I truly was. I remember feeling physically uncomfortable, which impacted on my interactions with the staff and my focus to carry out the task at hand.
On the other hand, the culture within my current organisation is very different. A culture of openness and equality and diversity is high up on the trust’s agenda.
I feel I am able to be my authentic self, which I believe brings richness to my leadership and helps me to establish meaningful professional relationships based on trust and mutual understanding. Ultimately, I feel I work more effectively in my role which benefits my team and leads to better patient care. I feel empowered within my organisation and I have also taken on the role as chair of the trust’s LGBTQ+ committee, which comes at an exciting time as we begin to prepare our plans for Birmingham Pride.
I am likely to be one of many LGBTQ+ people who have had these experiences and this is why I believe visible diversity and inclusion within leadership is so important. We need more visible LGBTQ+ role models to ensure our workforce feels empowered and enabled to shine as their authentic selves as it will lead to increased confidence, motivation and ultimately positively impact the quality of care we provide to our patients.
I work in a teaching hospital. I am also gay. I also have type 1 diabetes. I’ve also struggled with my mental health. Sounds a lot? Perhaps, but there’s not much I can do to change any of it. Instead I accept the challenges and do not allow them to hold me back.
I’ve had a varied and interesting career to date and leadership has been at the heart of it. I’ve watched leaders and their styles over the years and this has helped to develop my own leadership. Interacting with leaders of other professions, with whom I work closely has also taught me a lot.
I can honestly say that being gay has never affected my career. My sexuality has always been accepted, from being a student, up to the present day. I was worried at university about the demographic of my peers being different to mine, but I was lucky to have a large and diverse friendship group. I’ve watched gay leaders in pharmacy with respect and really feel that sexuality has been a non-issue in my career.
In 2016 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes out of the blue. This led to a very difficult episode of anxiety and depression, having lived with anxiety all of my life. I felt like my career was over and could not imagine ever leaving the comfort of my role at the time. I knew that I wanted to be a leader and develop further – but could not see how I could ever do that.
Thanks to support from various leaders, I was able to get back to normal over a few months. I began to develop my leadership again and thanks to visible and honest leaders who showed interest in me, I took the next step in my career.
In all this I learned a valuable lesson that leaders are not perfect. They are human and have the same individual challenges as everyone else. I was surprised to learn how many leaders struggle with anxiety. It’s taught me that with the right mind set anything is possible. As a leader I can be confident and anxious at the same time. I can do my job and not worry about hypos, so long as I have sweets in my pocket. I can openly talk about my male fiancé and not be judged. I feel privileged to be in this position and to have had the same chances as everyone else.
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