November 2023 - Teaching leadership in our field

Whilst leadership means different things to different people, it is mostly regarded in relation to managing a team or organization, but can also be defined as a set of personal skills or traits, or focussing on the relationship between leaders and followers.

In order to achieve more effective outcomes, leadership and management skills are now an expectation and requirement in the healthcare education setting [1] and this is reflected in the addition of leadership to the new GOC outcomes.

Why is leadership important for optometrists and dispensing opticians?

Leadership is an important skill for registered optical professionals, as they work in a complex and changing healthcare system and need to deliver and improve the service they provide to patients. Challenges for leaders in optometry and ophthalmic dispensing should also be acknowledged and managed, from balancing personal commitments, organisational and cultural issues, competing agendas and working across a range of clinical settings.

In her article on ‘Leadership in healthcare education’  Christie van Diggele highlights the essential link between effective leadership  and the delivery of high standards of education, research and clinical practice and states “to meet the needs of healthcare in the twenty-first century, competent leaders will be increasingly important across all health professions…… Consequently, incorporation of leadership training and development should be part of all health professional curricula. A new type of leader is emerging: one who role models the balance between autonomy and accountability, emphasises teamwork, and focuses on improving patient outcomes”.

It is important for all optometrists to understand that in the face of NHS changes and increasing clinical responsibilities, leadership skills are essential to enable them to deliver a safe and efficient service to patients.

Teaching leadership

There are a number of ways to learn and teach leadership. Here are some possible strategies to develop leadership skills in optometry and ophthalmic dispensing learners:

  • Reading articles and books on leadership and leadership styles
  • Participating in formal training
  • Accepting more responsibilities when required, or when opportunities arise - aspiring leaders need to be given opportunities to lead small teams under the careful observation of an experienced leader
  • Online courses. Reliance on digital platforms has accelerated over recent years as the post pandemic workplace has evolved online
  • Developing and strengthening communication skills - a successful leader must be able to influence others through effective communication
  • Seeking feedback and reflection from colleagues, supervisors, mentors and patients, which can help identify strengths and areas for improvement, as well as inspire new ideas and perspectives
  • Joining professional networks and associations, which offer opportunities for networking, mentoring, peer support and collaboration.

Have your say

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Bibliography and further reading

Jill Barra and Lesley Dowding's book on Leadership in Healthcare explores the underpinning theories of leadership and applies them to healthcare situations

Find out why Helen Court values the importance of leadership and management in optometry

An integrative review of leadership competencies and attributes in advanced nursing practice - PMC (

ABDO management and leadership training

Business Bites: What is servant leadership? - ABDO

The new clinical leader - Oates - 2012 - Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health - Wiley Online Library

Charles William Hargett et al used a concept mapping approach to identify stakeholders’ mental model of effective healthcare leadership. The research led to a model based on the core principle of Patient Centeredness and core competencies of Emotional Intelligence, Integrity, Selfless Service, Critical Thinking, and Teamwork

Why we need to teach leadership skills to medical students: a call to action | BMJ Leader

The King's Fund


Leadership and Management Techniques For All Doctors (

Leadership Skills Ultimate Guide with a Focus on Leadership Styles

What is clinical leadership…and why is it important? - Swanwick - 2011 - The Clinical Teacher - Wiley Online Library