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The many forms of everyday leadership

Melissa Donald - RCVS President 2022-23

This is flying into your inboxes as many of you are busy building toys and wrapping parcels, just before we finish 2021 and dive into the unknown of 2022. Are you the leader in the house, directing the Christmas organisation or more of the foot soldier, following orders?

Much has been said about the lack of female leadership role models in our profession, but I argue, every single one of us is and can be, a significant leader in our own worlds however you define yourself. Naturally a few of us will be more visible as we stick our heads above the parapets, but don't ever think you are not a leader.

We each take personal responsibility for our daily routine, from brushing teeth to getting to work on time on the right day. This is personal leadership.

Then many of us have partners and family and take a significant role in the organisation of the activities. We make decisions on child care, we influence behaviour, we guide relatives and friends, we are active in hobbies and clubs. This is domestic leadership.

At work, we are in our teams and there may be many different teams in one day. Career paths are affected by decisions, influence and guiding by ourselves and others. Some changes are so subtle, we don't even realise it until later. Something said over a cup of tea can change the direction of a person’s life, hopefully for the better. This is career leadership

Finally, there are those that decide to be more public and become organisational leaders. These are the ones they say there are not enough of!

I was interviewed a couple of years ago for a piece of research on female role models within the profession. At the time I was quite blasé about it but since then I have reflected a lot on why there are not more of us. My perspective then was one of not understanding why people just didn’t put their hands up and do the role, but now I realise how much my upbringing had in developing my confidence, in that it made no difference who I was.

Also seeing the relative inequalities at a very influential age of 17 made me more determined. At the annual school speech day, the new headmaster presented the head boy with a pair of cut-glass whisky tumblers. To the head girl (me!), I received a stainless-steel tea pot. A defining moment, never forgotten.

So, if I am told that it’s a place women shouldn’t go, guess where I’ll be heading!

We are now well into the twenty first century and very soon our new graduates will have been born after the millennium. It is time in our profession that it should not matter how you define yourself, the best leaders must shine through on their own merits.

I strongly believe everyone should be able to put their heads above the parapet without fear in whatever leadership role they choose. It is for everyone to help support those who do, in whatever way they can and inspire the next generation to follow.

As we close this year and start a brand new one, let’s all find and encourage the strengths in ourselves and each other, becoming the best leaders we all can be to the benefit of the whole profession.

Published on 17 December 2021