Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre Women’s Leadership Programme

Oct 3, 2022

In December 2021, the Leadership Centre designed and delivered a leadership programme focussed on supporting women in leadership roles across the healthcare sector in Abu Dhabi.

What did the work set out to achieve?

The Senior Leadership Team at Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre wanted to make a significant investment in women across their organisation and develop a culture in which every woman sees themselves as a leader.

The programme was delivered in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi, UK Health Security Agency and Leading Communities, an organisation with extensive experience in developing local leaders. The aim was to develop a group of female leaders who had the potential to operate at a senior level, and who, as a result of their learning, might bring greater diversity and representation to issues affecting women’s health.

Who participated?

28 Section heads and specialists, working in both clinical and non-clinical roles from Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre came together in the UAE with the programme facilitated remotely by the Leadership Centre in the United Kingdom. The programme was co-designed with the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, including a number of the participants, helping to ensure the design met the needs of the group.

The programme was split into three broad areas:

Developing leadership self awareness
The participants were encouraged to think about what mattered most to them in their leadership – what type of leader they are and want to be, as well how others perceive them. Each participant completed a diagnostic tool to understand more about their leadership preferences prior to the programme, which helped to develop a greater understanding of the power of difference.

Tackling systems challenges by applying multiple lenses

The group explored four key issues in teams, applying different lenses and taking a layered approach, designed to surface new insights. The issues explored were:

  • How might we get greater take up of screening and vaccination opportunities by older women so improving their health and wellbeing?
  • How might we co-design and improve our vital ongoing health work programmes at the same time as tackling the current Covid emergency and other emergency situations in the future?
  • How can we better support women in the workplace in UAE so that mental health concerns are recognised and supported earlier?
  • What more can we do to create healthy lifestyles so that we can improve health and wellness among women?

The thinking universally changed with each new lens that was applied. The groups described how the process allowed them to re-imagine the whole issue.

Sharing of skills and experiences between leaders in the UAE and the UK

Women leaders from across Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre joined participants and shared their experience of leading in complexity. Participants really valued the opportunity to have exploratory conversations together and in a way they had not done before. A number of international speakers attended the final day of the programme to join in a conversation with the teams about the system challenges and also share their leadership learning. There was a huge thirst to hear and learn from different parts of the world and the benefit was reciprocal with leaders in both locations taking away valuable insights.

The challenge today has been inspiring and I have heard a deep understanding about complexity and what it is to be a leader in public health. We have the same shoes wherever we are in the world. I am proud to be here today. – UK Local Government Chief Executive

What impact did the programme have?

Individually, the leadership learning appeared to be significant, with participants realising that you can change the system just by the way you are as leaders. Metrics from a pre and post programme survey showed a positive shift in participants’ sense of leadership capability, and everyone left the programme with a Personal Development Plan to support their ongoing development over the next year.

I feel I can develop outside of my comfort zone and do some skydiving in the job. I can be bolder. – Participant

It’s been an amazing series of workshops. We know ourselves and each other better. And we’ve worked on four challenges to support women in society. – Participant

Bringing people together from different directorates seemed to create a new realisation of shared challenges. The lenses applied to these issues helped participants to re-think new approaches to systemic issues, with individuals leaving the programme equipped with new insight and potential solutions to test.

I feel so fortunate to have been involved in leading this programme. The energy and freshness of ideas of all the women involved will be a lasting memory for me. We all rose to the challenge of ‘online’ leadership learning and showed how a group of committed women can work together and create the possibility of change in health outcomes for people. – Mari Davis, Director, Leading Communities

It has been a fantastic privilege to be involved in the design and delivery of this programme, the first of its kind in the region. Our whole team has been truly inspired by the women’s commitment to leading positive change for the communities they serve, which I have no doubt they will achieve. – John Jarvis, Chief Operating Officer, Leadership Centre.

To learn more about this programme, read the full case study.

(L-R) Eng Zainab, Ms Awatif, Finola Hegarty, Shadi Abu-Hayyeh UKHSA, British Ambassador to UAE Patrick Moody, ADPHC Chief Exec HE Dr Mutair, HE Dr Farida, HE Dr Omniyat


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