Final year medical students Wuraola Obadahun and Fiona Vincent spent three weeks with us as part of the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management (FMLM) elective.

So, what did they learn about leadership at the GMC?

What have you learnt about leadership over the past few weeks?

WO: It’s all about leading by example. You can’t expect stakeholders to buy into change if you don’t believe it yourself. You have to demonstrate it, prove it’s workable and be open to input. We talked about having shared values and the steps that must be taken to ensure everyone’s views and opinions are considered.

FV: I have learned a lot about leadership. For example, we had sessions on the structure of the NHS and professionalism in leadership. I learned that successful organisations emphasise relationships over structures. There was also a fascinating lecture on ‘speaking truth to power’ that reinforced the importance of communication and removing barriers to communication. I have seen examples of good leadership within the General Medical Council where there is a positive team atmosphere. Everyone understands their role within the team.

What was the best part of your experience?

FV: We have been fortunate to spend time with a wide variety of teams. I now have a better understanding of the breadth of the GMC’s remit. For me the best part was meeting the people who work within our regulatory body. Now, when I phone the contact line, I now know where my call will go. It’s actually a really friendly warm, welcoming place. I have also found the FMLM sessions fascinating.

WO: The thing for me that really stood out was the work of the Regional Liaison Service. It’s a tough job because every group has different needs. The team has to find ways to communicate and take on the views of participants. They work with doctors at all levels; from aspiring medics to consultants and GPs. During the first week I sat in on a session with about 50 a-level students hoping to do medicine. The GMC introduced who they were, and explained what the guidance means in a really engaging way.

How will these skills translate in a clinical environment?

FV: During the FMLM training on professionalism in leadership we had a really interesting conversation on what makes a good leader and a good doctor and how those skills and attributes are intertwined. It seems that assumptions are made about doctors having good leadership skills as they progress through their career. I really wanted to take some time to reflect on those skills and to learn more about leadership so I can apply it in the future. Skills such as good communication and relationships as well as well-defined team roles are very applicable to the clinical environment.

WO: I definitely echo that. It’s important understanding the structure in which you work and how you can relate to colleagues on different levels. It helps to have a good mentor who demonstrates the behaviours you’re aspiring to. I also enjoyed learning how to give feedback in a practical way. I love getting feedback but it’s important to provide it too, to encourage people when they’re doing well or assist them when something can be improved. We definitely saw this at play in the council open session. Members acknowledged good work before making meaningful suggestions. Feedback doesn’t have to be critical – it can be really useful and contribute to a better end product.

Would you recommend this elective?

WO: It provides unique insight you don’t always get in medical school. You may not want to be a leader in the traditional sense but it’s so important to understand the processes and the structures that you’re working within.

FV: Yes, definitely. It has been a great experience and a wonderful opportunity to meet like-minded people. Through our conversations with the other elective students we’ve also gained a wealth of knowledge about the other organisations involved, including BUPA, NHS England and Macmillan. It’s been a time to take a step back from clinical practice to reflect on my experiences, and also look forward to the exciting opportunities ahead.