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What does a leader look like?

  • Authentic - Stands up for personal values and beliefs
  • Emotionally intelligent - Have a sense of self value and independence and takes personal responsibility for their own direction
  • Visionary - Able to inspire others to see the vision and to want to be part of it
  • Passionate - Demonstrates enthusiasm, energy and commitment and shares the passion
  • Self-effacing - Aware of themselves and able to blend humility with drive

There are many recorded traits of a leader and the passion that midwives have for the care of women and midwifery potentially places them in a strong leadership position. Although anecdotal evidence suggests that many midwives are reluctant to take on leadership roles. For some this is because they see their leaders as stressed and undervalued undertaking a wide ranging post for which they may feel under prepared. Others are reluctant to step too far into leadership as they feel it takes them away form the clinical care and women. Nonetheless, every midwife has a leadership role in supporting women, colleagues, teams and the wider services. It is also important for all midwives to appreciate and understand the leadership role and direction the service is developing into to support the midwives who are moving practice forward.

Leadership framework

This framework was developed by the Leadership Academy for all staff working in the NHS. The rationale was to ensure that midwives, nurses and allied health professionals worked to and demonstrated the same leadership qualities. The RCM was given permission to adapt the framework  using examples which reflect midwifery practice. Click here for the RCM adaptation.
A management model Healthcare and Leadership model was produced by the Leadership Academy following the Francis Inquiry into Mid Staffs. Click here for exec summary.

Consultant Midwives

Consultant midwives have been supporting practice for a number of years, although the approach to the role and how it is executed varies. Click here to read more.

Reviewing Maternity Services

Maternity services and midwifery care are continually under scrutiny and a common theme identified in many reports and reviews is poor or absent leadership. Each of the four countries has recently undertaken or is in the process of reviewing maternity services, more information below. Leadership was a key element in the England review.
The National Maternity Review Better Births (England) full report can be downloaded from the NHS England website and the RCM response is here.
The strategy for maternity in NI can be found here.
The review in Scotland is underway, click here to access.
Wales has had a Maternity Strategy for some time now and it was reviewed in light of the maternity review in England, this was a light touch review but it was decided that there was no need to do more work/make changes as it remains fit for purpose. See Strategic Vision and Prudent Health Care links below:

Leadership Development

Finding time for any study leave is particularly challenging and often access to leadership education can be seen as something which is just for the few who want to become HoMs. The RCM believe that all midwives should be able to develop their leadership skills, competence and expertise. Below are some events/courses/resources you may find useful.

RCM i-learn

The RCM i-learn online learning platform for members has a number of resources to support leadership development.
A package of ten-minute taster i-learn modules on different aspects of leadership will help identify strengths and pathways for leadership development, thereby improving the provision of safe, high quality care.

The 10 bite size leadership courses include: Coaching, Effective communication, Promoting learning and Using influence. Many midwives and support workers will already exhibit some of the characteristics of a leader and may not appreciate the leadership skills that they already have, these mini modules give you a chance to reflect on and develop various transferable leadership skills to enhance both work and personal lives.
Other online courses can be found at the Leadership Academy

Face to face workshops

RCM also provide a number of face to face workshops for leadership development. Details of events can be found on the RCM website.

New for Spring 2019: Leading for maternity improvement course for band 7 midwives

A new midwifery leadership development programme for band 7 midwives. The programme consists of 4 face to face days with additional online resources, a personal tutor and coaching.

Download a flyer:
Click here to download a flyer

Labour Ward Leaders

The RCM, RCOG, NHSI and Atain developed and delivered four pilot leadership workshops for the labour ward leaders teams. The workshops brought together midwives and doctors who represented their wider leadership team. The team was asked to work on a quality improvement project which addressed safety in the labour ward.

The pilot programmes were based on findings from a survey completed by labour ward coordinators and obstetricians. The evaluation of the pilot events can be found here. Each team was asked to present a poster which reflected their learning, development and achievements, the posterbook can be found here.

Feedback from events

“I have become more self aware and aware of responding to different situations”
“Be more open to others and opinions and values”
“Presented and taught in a way directly linked to my clinical practice”


  • Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?: What It Takes To Be An Authentic Leader by Rob Goffee, Gareth Jones 2006
  • Leading at a Higher Level; Ken Blanchard 2010

Have you considered being an RCM fellow?                                                                                   

The RCM Fellowship scheme recognises individuals who provide exceptional leadership and deliver excellence in practice, education or research. RCM midwife members can apply to be considered for a fellowship and if successful, applicants can use the fellowship status to display their support for the RCM. Click here now to read more about RCM fellowship.

Need help?

For more information, please contact us at education@rcm.org.uk.