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Overview of the NIHR Future-Focused Leadership Programme


Published: 18 May 2021

Version: 1.0 - May 2021

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Background to the programme

The Future-Focused Leadership Programme has been developed specifically for the NIHR following an in-depth analysis to understand what makes a successful leader and offers delegates the opportunity to explore new thinking on how to lead in the 21st century.

This is an immersive programme and facilitates the development of network building amongst delegates and the application of learning to real-time leadership activity.

The capabilities we look to develop are aligned to three pillars of the programme known as the Success Framework:

  • Leading Self: compassionate to self and others, resilient achiever, demonstrates a clear vision
  • Leading Others: Nurture – develops others, empowers others, values inclusion; Collaborate – builds rapport, maintains relationships, leverages expertise; Influence – influences with impact, inspires others, listens intently, demonstrates courage
  • Leading Beyond Authority: strategically aware, seizes opportunities, responds with agility, navigates political landscapes.

The programme is delivered by an external consultancy and managed by the NIHR Academy.

Eligibility to apply for the programme

The NIHR Future-Focused Leadership Programme is available to two different audiences: Emerging Research Leaders (ERL) and Leaders. Applicants apply to be considered to participate in the programme and applications are reviewed by a selection committee.

The Emerging Research Leaders stream is for early to mid-career researchers on an academic track, who are taking up their first significant leadership and management roles. The programme enables participants to collaboratively explore management and leadership in health research and what it means at an individual, team, institution and system level in order to improve their leadership and management capability.

The Leaders stream is for current leaders based within NIHR or delivering a national role for NIHR. They will be developing into or taking up leadership roles at a senior level, facing significant leadership challenges, where support will be most needed and impactful. This programme will enhance their skills in leading across organisational boundaries, leading strategy and change and influencing others to achieve the strategic aims of the NIHR.

Programme outline

The programme starts with a ‘Virtual Kick Off Call’ where participants are informed about the year-long learning journey ahead, the tools and resources they will have at their disposal and are given the opportunity to meet those within their cohort.

Strengths Profile

Participants complete a Strengths Profile (detailing their Realised Strengths, Learned Behaviours, Unrealised Strengths and Weaknesses) and a 360 Feedback Report (items within the 360 are mapped to the content of the programme and participants will have a record of their performance across the items before the workshops and a follow up at the end of the year-long learning journey). The Strengths Profile and 360 are debriefed in a 90-minute 1:1 virtual coaching session with an Executive Coach. Participants have the opportunity to reflect on how they can use their unique combination of strengths to develop an authentic and trusted leadership approach.

Residential One – Leading Self

This first residential on leading self and nurturing others builds on the insights from the Strengths Profile and explores how participants can best communicate their strengths to others and develop an inclusive culture, which helps to draw out the unique strengths of those around them and coach their team so that everyone can flourish.

During this residential everyone is assigned to a ‘virtual coaching pair’ to continue to coach and support each other with the real-life challenges they face as leaders when they are back at work between the residential workshops. Participants post their reflections and actions on 'My Strengths Coach', the online learning platform that supports them throughout the journey.

Residential Two – Leading Others

The second residential explores all elements of how to collaborate effectively across a complex system, how to maintain focus on strategic goals to collaborate smarter not harder, engage others and build trust, support diverse views and deal positively with any conflict and develop a strong strategic network across the health and social care system.

After this residential, participants form small ‘virtual action learning sets’ that will meet again between the residentials to support each other on real-world challenges.

Residential Three – Leading Beyond Authority

The final residential develops participants' skills to lead beyond authority, and explore how to empower and inspire teams and influence people at all levels of the international landscape they work in. The final day is about challenging each other to think about the wider system they work in, build an entrepreneurial mindset and political astuteness in themselves and their teams.

This residential is followed by a ‘virtual action learning set’ to explore how to apply these insights into day-to-day roles.

The Strengths Profile and 360 Feedback Report is repeated, to see where participants have been able to move the bar. This is followed by cutting-edge ‘Virtual Reality Coaching’. In addition, participants hold another ‘virtual peer coaching session’, with the idea that this continues long after the ‘official’ leadership programme ends.

Close of programme

To bring the programme to a close, there is a Virtual Close Call’, where the participants reflect back on the journey they have been on, their key successes, learnings and consider their areas of focus for the future.

Additional information

Each residential is funded and the duration is two days and one night, the only additional costs are the travel costs for travel to and from each residential location. The location for the residential changes regularly, past locations have included Birmingham, Manchester, London and Reading.

Learn more about the NIHR Leaders Support and Development Programme.

For enquiries about the leadership development and support programmes email