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Leadership Development Programme: West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance


West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance (WY & H) commissioned Prospect to deliver a leadership programme for the Clinical Chairs and Vice chairs of the Optimal Pathway Groups (OPG) which launched in March 2021. It was recognised that there was a need for the leadership

development to support the chairs and vice chairs to take on the role as system leaders who would lead the changes required for their tumour pathways and transformation required as part of the national cancer plan.

Prospect delivered masterclasses through virtual webinars and face-to-face sessions on system thinking, system leadership and leading change to chairs and vice chairs of the OPGs, combined with coaching and action learning.


The programme was delivered through two online and two face-to-face Masterclass sessions which were tailored to

participants’ needs based on interviews and learning self-assessments completed pre-programme.

The first two masterclasses were delivered as online webinars and focused upon ‘being the best version of you and being a system leader.’ These webinars consisted of the following topics:

Masterclass 1 - Self as Leader

  • Strengths and areas for development

  • Leadership style

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Leading as a role model

Masterclass 2 - System Thinking and System Leadership

  • Understand system thinking

  • Mapping out your system relationships

  • Develop relationships, trust, advocacy

  • Effective relationships and partnerships

  • What is needed to lead the OPG

Following the online webinars were the two face-to-face masterclasses which focused on the subjects of ‘leading change across the system’ (Masterclass 3) and ‘leading others and resolving conflict (Masterclass 4), including the following topics:

Masterclass 3 - Leading Change Across the System

  • QI models for large scale change

  • Applying this to your OPG delivery model

  • Ownership and shared accountability

  • Linking leading change to politics, power and authority

  • Leading others through change and understanding the psychological responses to change

Masterclass 4 - Leading Others and Resolving Conflict

  • Negotiation styles and approaches

  • System influencing strategies

  • Conflict and our preferences

  • Having effective conversations and skills practice

Participants also took part in Action Learning sets (ALS) following Masterclasses 2, 3 and 4 which served to support and embed learning.

These ALS were set up to give participants the opportunity to learn from each other, help deal with complex problems, a space to ask open questions and to discover issues shared in common across the OPGs, as well as providing networking opportunities.

Participants were also offered up to 6 1:1 virtual coaching sessions.


Participants were given a questionnaire to review their experiences of the masterclasses. Below is the list of questions given to participants and a summary of their responses:

Review of the masterclass’s responses:

Thinking of the 4 masterclasses, what in your opinion has gone well?

  • Outside speakers were all excellent and the leader experience lectures were very powerful.

  • Participants reported having a broader knowledge and more confidence.

  • The masterclasses were well facilitated with a good mix of theory and extra reading resources

What could have made these even better?

  • Face to face sessions are essential

  • Some of the terminology was difficult to understand.

How will you continue to share/network/learn together?

  • Regular meetings are needed

  • Whatsapp group conversations

  • Continuing meetings between leads is essential.

  • Participants would like to know more about what is happening across the OPG’s, with more time spent on the overall vision and outcomes.

  • Three respondents commented that they would like a follow up review session

  • Influencing provider organisations to increase visibility of OPG leaders.

Participants were also given a questionnaire on the leadership development programme for OPG chairs and vice chairs.

Alliance Outcomes

The Alliance has commissioned an additional cohort, recognising that the opportunities from the programme should be made accessible to a broader group of clinical leaders in their system and those interacting with challenging transformation programmes.

We also understood more about the challenges experienced by clinical leaders in stepping forward, balancing the time commitments of leadership roles with us alongside other clinical duties.  The programme also created a shared platform for understanding different priorities, helping to positively influence and shape our delivery plan for the business planning process.

Review of the leadership development programme responses:

How do you feel the leadership development has helped you in your role as a leader of your OPG?

  • Several participants said that they feel they have increased their knowledge, skills, and confidence levels within their leadership because of the programme.

  • The development allowed individuals to look at their preferences, styles, and approaches, e.g., negotiating style, conflict modes and influencing

  • Some outlined they had benefited from looking at their own accountability and how they can use responsibility / accountability frameworks to support leading others

  • There was overall agreement that the speakers at each masterclass had been useful giving insight into leadership across a region, understanding a regional approach, and empowering others without authority

  • There were several positive comments about the design and delivery, and facilitation of the programme


“The knowledge gained has helped me think carefully about the priorities of the OPG, how to align this with the ambitions of the wider cancer alliance and the national cancer plan and how to design agendas for the OPG meetings to drive these priorities through”.

How do you feel you have progressed as a leader, what has helped you the most?  What are the 3 things you have started to do differently?

  • A number said the development had helped them in their OPG role and helped with their confidence levels in leading in their OPG’s

  • Some spoke of how they had gained from different ways to approach things and individuals within their role

  • It was felt that decision making had been enhanced.

  • A couple of participants said it had helped to gain clarity of what their leadership role and remit as an OPG lead was about

  • Participants reported an increased insight into general styles and approaches were spoken for example knowledge of negotiation styles, and using these, using conflict modes to manage difficult situations and different ways to approach individuals and engage with others

  • Several participants spoke of “how peer support in gaining ideas from each other had been powerful” and reported interest in working with/learning from other cancer alliances


“Awareness of my conflict style preference has enabled me to consistently apply a collaborative approach rather than avoidance stepping back”

For those who have undertaken Action Learning Sets - What have been the benefits of attending the ALS? How have these helped you in your role as a leader? Any thoughts on becoming self-facilitative / forming a network as an ALS?

  • All spoke of how powerful the learning had been using this methodology. They spoke of and quoted that they very much feel the practical application in helping them with challenges within their role and helping in gaining clarity within their role of OPG.

  • All found the learning from each other very positive as it is felt they had similar issues across their OPG’s, which helped individuals with their confidence levels, in being able to address the issues/ challenges

  • A number spoke of the learning they gained from asking open, insightful questions

  • All agreed it had provided space and time for reflection with colleagues


“The ALS provided an opportunity to explore a real-life professional challenge with peers who asked some probing questions and through this enabled me to form certain opinions and create a solution”.

Any thoughts on becoming self-facilitative / forming a network as an ALS?

  • All who participated in the review and returned templates outlined that they would be interested in continuing the learning and networking in this way. It was felt this still needs to be facilitated and would need commitment from all to attend, with the hope over time they could become self-facilitated, working collectively on structured themes within ALS.

  • One person outlined that this could be undertaken in the future with the Cancer Alliance (CA)

What benefits do you feel you have gained from your 1-1 coaching? How has this been beneficial to you in your leadership role within the OPG? Any other benefits you have gained?

  • All who have had coaching outlined that this had been excellent. Many have asked to extend their coaching to support continuing their development


“One of the highlights of this program has been the coaching. Reiterated some of the principles of leading that were emphasised in the course but in a way that was applicable to my situation. Provided clarity to my thoughts and shaped my actions. In fact, as a direct result of this coaching, I have secured a wonderful professional opportunity.”

How useful was the networking you did with other OPG chairs/ vice chairs? If useful, how can you sustain this?

  • All agreed that networking through the programme had been very useful, meeting other OPG leads, it had been important to get peer support.

  • It was acknowledged that time constraints in sustaining the networking may be an issue, it was felt that perhaps this could be sustained through an ALS approach with sufficient interest

Were there any aspects of the development not useful to you?

  • The blended learning approach to the programme had been useful, some commented if this had been just masterclasses, they felt it would have been less useful, the ALS and coaching has helped in application of theory.

  • Some discussion about starting to discuss issues and challenges in the masterclasses earlier

  • More face-to-face time if/when possible would have forged relationships earlier

  • There was an acknowledgment that they would have liked more links with the CA


“I wish we had more face-to-face interaction with the participants, but I understand that was not under the organiser’s control and pandemic issues.”

Would you recommend the development you have had to others? If so, anything specific you would say to those you're making recommendations to?

  • All who engaged in the review would highly recommend to others – they spoke of the programme as being “facilitated well by experienced professionals right from design to the organisation of the programme with immense support provided all along”.

What development would be useful for you in the future?

  • Several outlined the opportunity to continue their 1-1 coaching would be very useful

  • It was suggested to continue the ALS and networking across the Alliance, involving the CA

To help you in your OPG role, is there anything else you feel is needed?

  • Several comments regarding the following

  • Cross OPG working

  • Incentives to do the role (mentioned the development had been a positive incentive)

  • To have a better understanding of the role of the Alliance - what it does, how it fits in with the care providers (hospital trusts) and particularly its power to effect change

  • Regular meeting with high level leaders within the Alliance to identify a clear set of national outcome and process measures to work on with shared accountability.

  • To facilitate real-time sharing of high-level performance and quality data that is complete and accurate.

  • Facilitate specialist group meetings with other alliances wider working across alliances would be helpful.

  • Some spoke about engagement with Primary care

  • It was felt that the role needs time and effort, and therefore must be properly incentivized to attract the best talent.

How do you feel as a leader within the Alliance, you can support/ enable / contribute to the business outcomes needed?

  • All who attended the review were happy to discuss future involvement, spoke of supporting innovation, broadening membership, and networking across the CA.


“Having started as consultant breast radiologist at York from March 2022, with the added responsibility of Deputy Director of the North Yorkshire breast screening programme, I could potentially facilitate collaboration of the breast speciality groups across the two cancer alliances”.

Further viewing:

Jay, a former participant of this programme, recorded this video at the launch with his hints and tips alongside Sree, who also spoke at the launch.

“Prospect were fantastic to work with and would be highly recommended by us.  Jackie and team take the time to build up relationships, understand your needs and have a flexible approach to delivering the outcomes you need.

On this programme, our clinicians welcomed both the content delivered, the structure, and the opportunities this provided for them to reflect on how they can use their personal and collective agency to deliver their leadership roles.  We are delighted by the feedback from the participants.”

Jason Pawluk, Programme Director,
West Yorkshire & Harrogate Cancer Alliance

Leadership Development Programme: West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance

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