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How Leadership Mentorship Improved My Career

In this blog post, I would like to share my experience of receiving leadership mentorship as an International Medical Graduate (IMG) in the UK. This was the first time I had formal mentorship as a new doctor in the NHS, and it proved to be very helpful for me. After this unique mentorship experience, I consolidated my decision to pursue a career in General Practice.

I have always been curious about how healthcare organisations work and how they can be improved. I often reflected on ideas about what kind of care is best for the population, what qualities are required to lead a productive health service, and whether there are mentors in the health service to help others lead well.

To answer these questions, I pursued a postgraduate certification in clinical leadership and management. During my studies, I gained knowledge about different aspects of leadership, including change theories, service improvement methods, and organisational culture. I also explored sources like Britnell, comparing health systems around the world including what makes the NHS tick. (Britnell, 2015)

But learning was not enough. I wanted to apply what I learned in the real world. So, I got involved in some quality improvement projects in the hospital where I worked. I worked with other stakeholders to make positive changes in patient care, using tools like Kotter’s change model and IHI improvement methods. I published a small handbook on quality improvement for health providers. I also gained a deeper understanding of the system I was part of, and how it was influenced by policies and regulations.

However, I still felt that I needed more guidance and support. I wanted to learn from someone who had more experience and expertise in leading change in primary care. That’s why I sought out mentorship support. I hoped that it would help me grow as a leader in my career and teach me how to deal with practical issues like communication, and stakeholder management.

I think mentorship is a great way to develop leadership skills. Ann (2006) defines it as an educational process that improves the leadership capabilities of individuals. It is also known as a developmental relationship. Many researchers and educators agree that mentorship can help build capacity for better knowledge and skill in the workplace. (Gagliardi et al, 2009).


Let me tell you about how I found my mentor and what I learned from her. At the time, I was working as a trust-grade clinical fellow in geriatric medicine. I asked some of my senior consultants for advice, and they kindly referred me back to the program manager for the clinical fellowship I was undertaking. After she interviewed me, I was matched with the trust’s divisional director for primary care services, who became my mentor.

Once a week for four months, I went to her GP surgery and followed her around. I saw what she did every day, and I also joined her in some board meetings where they were discussing a big change project: the reorganisation of primary care services into a Primary Care Network (PCN). In 2019, the introduction of the PCN was a strategic move to form fully integrated community-based health services. It was the type of exposure that I needed to grasp the scope of requirements in primary care health service leadership.

Our mentorship relationship was very positive and supportive. She did more than just teach me. Our relationship had all the characteristics opined by Hayes’ research, in Hawkins & Fotenot (2010), who stated that good mentorship is accomplished through “teaching, socialising, providing opportunity, sponsoring, coaching, guiding, protecting, advising and counselling, encouraging, inspiring, challenging, role modelling, supporting and befriending.”

We talked a lot about leadership capability. One of the key things I learned from her was that you don’t always have to know the right answers. You have to be willing to learn and adapt. She also taught me how to effectively assess the strategic importance of leading change, including the necessary skills, behaviours, and competencies. As a clinician who was working in secondary care at the time while observing her patient care, I saw how a GP served as a healthcare coordinator, connecting patients with a range of services and resources, including social care, ambulance service, emergency care, and speciality services.

But what impressed me the most was how she was directly involved in the lives of her patients, from cradle to grave. She made joint decisions with them during consultations, and they trusted her and appreciated her. When we visited them at home, they were happy to see us and welcomed us warmly. I also felt very comfortable with the administrative staff of the surgery, who were friendly and helpful.


I guess you might be wondering, how can I find and keep a great mentor. There are 5 attributes that you need :

Be inquisitive: Curiosity should be a personal attribute. If you want to benefit from a mentor, you need to be curious about their journey, their challenges, their achievements and their insights. You also need to curious about yourself, your goals, your strengths, and your areas of improvement. Curiosity will help you ask the right questions, listen actively, and apply what you learn to your own situation.

Be Humble: Be open to learn from others. Humility will help you respect your mentor’s time and expertise, appreciate their feedback and acknowledge their contribution to your success. Humility will also help you avoid being defensive, arrogant, or entitled when interacting with your mentor. This is where good communication skills can really help you thrive. Learn how to be polite and speak clearly.

Be Inceptive: Initiative is the willingness to take action and responsibility for your own development. Initiative will help you find and reach out to potential mentors, communicate your expectations and needs, and follow up on your action plans. Initiative will also help you seek out other opportunities to learn and grow, such as reading books, taking courses, attending events, or joining communities related to your interests.

Be Adaptable: Adaptability is the ability to adjust and cope with changing situations and feedback. Adaptability will help you embrace new challenges, and learn from your mistakes. You will be able to deal with scheduling issues, communication gaps or mismatched expectations of yourself or others. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, feedback or help when you need it.

Be Grateful: You need a mindset of optimism to attract opportunities and success in life. Gratitude will help you build a positive relationship with your mentor as well as other people who support you in your career.

These 5 attributes have helped me achieve successful mentorship relationships and I remain grateful for the learning I have gleaned from the great mentors along my career path.

If you are an IMG interested in GP training, feel free to contact me for a free consultation on beginning the GP training process.


Ann, S. M. (2006). Leadership development in healthcare: A qualitative study. Journal of Organisational Behaviour, 27(7), 967. <>

Britnell, M. (2015). In search of the perfect health system. London Palgrave.

Gagliardi, A.R., Perrier, L., Webster, F., Leslie, K., Bell, M., Levinson, W., Rotstein, O., Tourangeau, A., Morrison, L., Silver, I.L. and Straus, S.E. (2009) Exploring mentorship as a strategy to build capacity for knowledge translation research and practice: protocol for a qualitative study. Implementation Science [online], 4(1), pp. 55 [Accessed 1 February 2024]. Available at: <>.

Hawkins, J.W. and Fontenot, H.B. (2010) Mentorship: the heart and soul of health care leadership. Journal of Healthcare Leadership [online], 2 pp. 31-34.

King’s Fund (2018). A year of integrated care systems: reviewing the journey so far. (online). [Accessed 1 February 2024]. Available at: <>.

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