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Emerging Leaders 

As a surgeon, there are a number of leadership opportunities available to you throughout your career. For many surgeons, however, imposter syndrome, fear of the unknown and other responsibilities can stop you from applying to roles that you have great potential to excel in. 

The Emerging Leaders programme aims to encourage women to become familiar with, and subsequently apply for, leadership roles within the surgical and healthcare profession.

Targeted at senior specialty trainees, senior SAS doctors and new consultants, the programme supports women whose environment means they are struggling to find their leadership style and voice. We provide opportunities and exposure that participants may not otherwise be able to access.

We are looking for participants who demonstrate commitment to career aspirations, including:
  • Governance roles where they can influence strategy setting and planning, such as Council member at RCS England, a specialist association or professional body;
  • Clinical lead roles at RCS England, or clinical or educational governance responsibility in their employing trust, where they can lead clinical teams and direct patient care.


Submit your Emerging Leaders application by Sunday 24 October 2021.

Having concentrated on delivering excellence in clinical care and training as a consultant surgeon for the past decade, the Lady Estelle Wolfson Fellowship programme has now offered unique insight into how the Royal College of Surgeons functions, and provided an opportunity to explore how one might usefully contribute to our profession in the future.

Nicola Fearnhead, 2015/16


The programme provides participants with:

  • An understanding of the roles and responsibilities involved in leadership;
  • An opportunity to develop their own leadership style and build confidence;
  • Support in overcoming the challenges of progression into leadership;
  • The opportunity to meet and engage with senior leaders at RCS England and in the surgical profession;
  • Access to high-profile meetings at RCS England, such as Council and Standing Committee meetings;
  • A chance to get involved in a variety of RCS England activities of personal interest;
  • Access to mentors from inside and/or outside the surgical profession;
  • Access to an alumnae network.

'I was really pleased to be awarded the Lady Estelle Wolfson Emerging Leaders Fellowship but did not know what to expect. I have had an amazing opportunity to gain insight into the processes involved in various committees at the College and I intend to become more actively involved in the future. I have met some incredible and inspiring surgeons and found this a really enjoyable and rewarding experience.'

Kathryn Taylor, 2018-19

Programme summary

The programme runs for 21 months, starting in January and finishing in September the following year.


Year 1

  • Complete eight e-learning modules – around two hours learning time, accompanied by forums to share thinking. 
  • Attend two workshops.
  • Identify your development needs and connect with potential mentors; 
  • Follow up opportunities to become involved in governance and clinical lead roles at RCS England or your employing trust. 
  • Attend the Women in Surgery (WinS) conference.

Year 2

  • Act as a mentor to year one participants and contribute to an alumnae network. 
  • Strengthen your own support network and impact in leadership roles. 
  • Contribute to the WinS conference. 
  • Contribute to an evaluation of the programme’s impact on your career and development as a surgical leader. This may include interviews, podcasts, webinars and presentations.

Beyond year 2

  • Continue to act as a mentor to other participants or alumnae.
The Lady Estelle Wolfson Leadership Fellowship has provided valuable mentorship and a (super) fast-track in my career. There’s been opportunity to attend a multitude of RCS Committee meetings, to deliver teaching at RCS Educational Courses, and to participate in the design of marketing resources. Networking with a diverse group of Fellows has offered informal support and contacts for the future. As the year draws to an end, I have been successfully appointed to a Programme Director role - a leadership opportunity that I had not dreamt of this time last year. My sincere thanks to RCS and FDS for your support. If you’re thinking about applying - stop thinking, and just go for it.

Laura Gartshore, 2018-19


The programme is free, including access to all e-learning modules. Travel and accommodation for attendance at face-to-face events will be covered by RCS England in accordance with our expenses policy. 


Selection criteria

To be eligible for the Emerging Leaders Programme, you must:

  • identify as a woman;
  • be a new consultant, senior SAS grade or senior Specialty Trainee;
  • be a fellow or member of The Royal College of Surgeons of England.

You must also have the following experience, goals and outlook:

  • experience of managing situations and people, and be ready to move into leadership
  • some decision-making responsibilities, but limited experience of setting policy or strategy
  • leadership exposure such as:
    • supporting a surgical team in action
    • a tactical/supporting role in your employing trust, RCS England or a specialist association or professional body
    • running patient-focused activities such as clinical research or PPI (patient and public involvement activities)
    • taking overall responsibility for preventing and resolving issues around patient care

You should be able to demonstrate:

  • an ambition to lead, with a sense of purpose and vision
  • a desire to identify leadership theories and apply leadership skills to develop your own inclusive and collaborative leadership style
  • self-awareness and an openness to professional and personal development, in line with the aspirations of the programme
  • a commitment to diversity, inclusion and collaboration

We welcome applications from the diverse range of people who work in surgery and medicine, including those who work less than full time. We are also keen to achieve a spread of appointments across specialties and geographical regions.

For further information, please contact

Apply for the Emerging Leaders Programme.

Closing date for applications: 11:59pm Sunday 24 October 2021

Application timeline

  • Applications close on 24 October 2021
  • Interviews will be held virtually between 15–26 November 2021, a pre-recorded video will also be required at this stage
  • Successful participants will be contacted the week commencing 6 December 2021
  • Programme begins January 2022

Programme - year 1

Provisional programme, subject to change.

Year 1: Learning and knowledge gathering


January – March

Introduction and welcome (virtual)

  • History of women in surgery, why we need women in leadership roles
  • How to derive the best outcomes from the programme

Leadership in the College (video)

  • Leadership competence linked to aims, vision and values of the College
  • Pathways to leadership and structure and governance of the College

What is leadership? (e-learning)

  • Your own leadership type and style
  • Behaviours of an effective leader

April – June

Networking (e-learning)

  • Grasping opportunities, boosting visibility and presence
  • Effective observation

Peer support (e-learning)

  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Giving and receiving feedback

Leadership theories (e-learning)

  • Some theories and evidence
  • Leader or Manager

What have you learnt so far? (half-day workshop)

  • Practising feedback, mentoring and coaching
  • Reflecting on your progress

July – September

Equality, diversity and inclusion (e-learning)

  • Inclusive leadership behaviour
  • Creative responses to challenging situations  

Being a positive influencer (e-learning)

  • Inspiring others and being a good role model
  • Communication skills including body language

Attend Women in Surgery conference (one-day event)

October – December

Teamwork (e-learning)

  • Building an effective team and diverse strengths within a team
  • Creating a psychologically safe working environment

Success (e-learning)

  • What does success look like for you?
  • Your vision for you as a leader and action plan

Making progress and moving forwards (half-day workshop)

  • Challenging conversations – roleplay
  • Reflecting on your progress and what your success looks like
  • Reflection on the programme and discussion of experiences
  • Discussion on your development and plans for your leadership journey

End of year gathering (format to be agreed)

Programme - year 2 and beyond

Year 2:  Application, sharing and embedding

Focus on developing and applying the knowledge, skills and attitudes gained in year 1

  • Observe and participate in coaching and mentoring conversations and events
  • Provide peer support to the next cohort of participants


  • Grow your network and seek out suitable leadership positions


  • Write journal reflections and review leadership plan

Women in Surgery conference

  • Deliver a session at the WinS conference or lead a steering group to plan a conference session
  • Receive and respond to feedback from peer support


  • Final gathering to celebrate successes, review the programme and give feedback

Year 3 onwards: Alumnae years

Supporting others 

  • Provide peer support to participants, others in the College or those in governance roles at a national or local level to grow a culture of sustainable, inclusive leadership


  • Continue to grow your network and seek out suitable leadership positions

Further information and queries


Phone us

Call 020 7869 6300 to talk with a member of our team. 

We are available to answer calls during our working hours of 8:30am - 4:30pm, Monday - Friday and there is a voicemail outside this time. 

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