Defining leadership skills


Naomi Eglington has moved from a leadership position in the NHS to one in education. She asks if leadership skills are transferable?

If you looked to find a definition of leadership to satisfy a theoretical study, you might refer to experts analysing individual traits and characteristics. But can you assume that a good leader can be effective no matter what type of organisation they lead? 

The first 10 years of my career have been in healthcare leadership in a variety of strategic roles, culminating in my most recent position as manager of a private hospital, based on the site of an NHS hospital on the south coast. 

Throughout this time, I worked for a fantastic organisation which aligned directly to the mission and values of not only patient care, but also care for staff and their development. 

Growing up, I have been surrounded by several educators who have spent many a year encouraging me to move into schools, and until recently I have resisted, enjoying the satisfaction of developing successful and high-performing hospital teams. 

However, when I saw an advertisement for the Future Leaders school leadership programme, which posed a series of evocative questions, I found myself answering yes, yes and yes! 

Here was an opportunity for me to move into a world I have always been passionate about while at the same time using the skills I have gained as a good leader – perfect!

The changing landscape of education made this proposition further attractive; I now have the opportunity to transform challenging schools into successful organisations for students. This echoed the prospect I faced in leading my first hospital: the need to transform an established culture and to create a pace of change that was needed to ensure the hospital shifted its performance.

I can draw many parallels between hospitals and schools, not only in structure and leadership, but in moral purpose, which has made my transition into schools fairly smooth. 

In school leadership there is a need for clear and consistent messaging, the same for all successful organisations. However, there was one gap in my experience which became apparent very quickly: as I only recently took my PGCE, I found it difficult to grasp the day-to-day realities of being a teacher. The tacit knowledge gained in a school does not develop overnight, however I took the decision to go for it and have not looked back.

My beliefs are that leadership traits are durable across any context; that if you are good at understanding the complex set of practices of an organisation, and at motivating and aligning people to your vision, then you will be successful as a leader.

The Future Leaders programme has offered me a vehicle to transfer my leadership skills into education. I’ve just started my Future Leaders training and I can already see how the moral purpose that has driven me in career choices so far, can be readily exported into teaching, and in particular into challenging schools where the opportunity to make a significant impact is greater.

While I had a good grounding working my way up the management ladder in healthcare, I was propelled into senior leadership within just five years and had to find my feet very quickly. I anticipate the same lies ahead through my Future Leaders path to headship. It will be intense, however this time I feel more prepared and supported. 

As I reflect on my leadership journey, I believe now more than ever that “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” regardless of the context, and I will ensure that I carry out my leadership duties to help narrow the achievement gap in my school with conviction and clarity.

  • Naomi Eglington started on the Future Leaders programme this summer and begins her journey to headship in the senior leadership team of Brighton Aldridge Community Academy in September. Future Leaders develops school leaders to work in challenging schools. Visit


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