The Role of the Network Lead – The Reality
Updated: Jan 7
(And the reality is that you are doing an amazing job!)
This blog is for you if you are the Clinical or Network Lead and your role is to provide strategic leadership and direction whilst managing uncertainty and ambiguity with a lack of time and resources.
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Whilst you do have a job description, the role in reality may seem very different from what is written down so I thought I would provide you with a little more guidance and hopefully motivation to let you know what is expected and how you are doing.
You are not the network
You may be the face of the network, but you are not the network. You need the help and support of others to consistently deliver what is required and what you agreed with the members of your network. This requires assigning roles and responsibilities and building trust amongst your team. Yes, this requires both leadership and management.
In the early days – you are on the campaign trail, as the network lead your role is to be visible, inspiring, driven, consultative, a good listener. Someone who spots talent, nurtures the quiet ones, kindly acknowledges and sometimes quietens the dissenting voices with the aim of bringing everyone to the same page.
Day-to-Day Leadership and Management
As a network leader, your role requires you to have an excellent understanding of:
Risks and issues
Progress being made and holding people accountable
However you do not manage the day-to-day operations of the network, this is the role of a network manager who is there to take tasks like this off your plate and make your life easier by assembling network functions which may include:
Administration and storing information
Clinical services and projects with KPI's
Communications and engagement
Although you do need to review documentation and provide feedback, you do not need to write in-depth papers or reports. Here you are working with your network manager to do this. When it comes to meetings, you are required to attend some but not every single PCN meeting you are invited to. You need to protect your time and energy to lead your network.
You work to a structure and go about building your network foundations and services with laser focus, but not so focussed that you don’t bring people along with you, because you know all too well if you run too far in front you won't find anyone behind you, but if you constantly cajole everyone you won’t get anything meaningful done.
Know thyself and be brave
As with all leadership roles, you are required to really understand yourself, your leadership style, what drives and motivates you, what irritates and frustrates you and you know that with every new level, you will meet a new devil which typically manifests itself in the form of your inner critic constantly asking “was that ok?” or “who the hell do you think you are?”
Because you know yourself and the goal of the network, you will be able to inspire confidence and show people you are human, openly admit your mistakes and select which battles to fight. This will feel uncomfortable to you and may to others, but they will respect you for it.
This will feel uncomfortable to you and may to others, but they will respect you for it.
You carefully and intentionally plan thinking and reflection time and you set areas for focus and priorities for your network as you know there is only limited time and resources so you need to make the most of what you’ve got.
The work that know one sees (or really appreciates)
Network leads make the time to do the work that no one else sees;
Reading blogs, publications and books.
Listening to podcasts
Meeting people for a chat because you know you can learn something from them and you sharing your lessons learnt in a bid to help others.
This my friend, is the work and this is the job and the good news is that you are doing the job beautifully.
Yes… it is tough and tiring and often feels like one step forward and two steps back but hats off to you and keep doing what you're doing!
Tara Humphrey is the founder of THC Primary Care, a leading healthcare consultancy specialising in workforce transformation and the host of the Business of Healthcare Podcast.
Tara and her team also work with GP federations supporting the implementation of clinical services.
Tara has over 20 years of project management and business development experience across the private and public sector and has an MBA in Leadership and Management in Healthcare, is published in the London Journal of Primary Care and is the author of over 150 blogs.