Dr Olukayode Adeeko shares his wisdom for future clinical leaders

“You are never pre-qualified to live your dreams. You qualify yourself by doing the work. By committing—even overcommitting — to what you believe you should do.” Benjamin P. Hardy

I have been privileged to have led over sixty GP practices in the North of England as a local medical director/ medical director in the past decade.

We were able to achieve so much for our patients during this era, I am indebted to my colleagues (past and present) for their support without which those achievements would have been a mirage. I look back at my tenures in these senior medical leadership roles with fondness and a sense of fulfilment.

Reflecting on my own journey in clinical leadership, I would say that it is imperative to Walk the Talk. It is better to under-promise but to over-deliver. Were there challenges and hurdles in these top roles? Unsurprisingly, yes. However, they were not insurmountable, but with the right strategy and a willing attitude, I was able to overcome them.

But be prepared to take the smooth with the rough.

My advice

My advice to aspiring and would-be clinical leaders is that they should see:

  • Mentors as catalysts: The role of mentors cannot be overemphasized. I have benefited from the support and guidance of many mentors throughout my career. I was inspired to aspire for medical leadership roles early in my career by one of my mentors, Dr. Abdullah Shehu whom I was opportune to meet and work under in 2003/2004, he was a clinical director and consultant neurologist at UHCW NHS Trust at that time. A black physician with many firsts yet incredibly humble and keen to support upcoming medical leaders.
  • Many are seen as role models, they would share their own journeys, you can tap from their wealth of experience, they provide you with informal appraisal, offer you encouragement and support, and they can help you 'navigate' the system which can sometimes appear convoluted and complex for the JJC (Jonnie just come)! the Nigerian colloquial for the new arrival to a sophisticated domain.
  • Teamwork as the cornerstone for success: A leader without team support is like Samson without his hair. Your team is your strength as a leader. Be a team player.
  • Back up their passion with actions: please set 'SMART' goals, and work with a 'milestone monitor'.
    - Avoid what I refer to as 'CWS' syndrome (The could’ve- would’ve -should’ve syndrome). I often hear colleagues say ‘I could have expressed interest in that post’, ‘I would have applied for that job but…’ or ‘Oh no, I should have taken to that role...’
  • Don’t make the next opportunity, a could’ve, would’ve and should’ve no-show.
  • Don’t just sit and agonise, stand and organise.


And finally, to our wonderful employers and the NHS providers: please bear in mind that some of us require 'scaffolding' rather than a ladder to get to (and more importantly, to stay in) leadership positions. Therefore, provide us with appropriate support and wherewithal, create and ensure the enabling environment, offer us mentorship at work, and motivate us with constructive feedback and encouragement.

Together we can deliver safe and effective patient care for all; promote an improved inclusive, more representative, and diverse medical leadership workforce, boost the confidence of aspiring clinical leaders, and foster harmonious and trusting working relationships.

About the writer

Dr Olukayode Adeeko LLB (Hons), FRCGP, FFMLM, FHEA, FRSPH, FAcadMEd
GP and Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Liverpool

  • Two-time winner of the GP of the year award, Mersey Faculty, RCGP.
  • Recipient of the national award - RCGP Certificate of Commendation for his outstanding contributions to general practice and primary care.