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Leading Care: Dr. Manal Al-Zadjali and Oman's Higher Institute of Health Specialties

In this interview, Manal Abdul Majeed Al-Zadjali '02 BSN, PhD, MSN discusses her leadership in advancing nurses and health care through higher education. 

She is Dean of the Higher Institute of Health Specialties (HIHS), Ministry of Health, Sultanate of Oman, since 2018.

Manal Al-Zadjali

How did you rise to this leadership position?

This leadership position is the culmination of a long-term goal that I stayed focused on and educated  myself for by attending courses and trainings in leadership and management. In addition, my direct supervisors trained me, trusted my work and supported me in reaching where I am today.

Who influenced you?

I have had the pleasure of learning from, and working with, many people who have influenced me as a leader, some of them I have not yet met. However, I have learned something from all of them.  I am grateful to them.

Why is it important to you? Why are you enthusiastic about your work in this role?

Currently I am the Dean of the HIHS which is an institution that is in transition stage i.e. moving from being an institute which provides a post-basic diploma to a higher Institute that provides post-graduate programs at the Postgraduate Diploma level. This transition stage is allowing me, as one of the leaders in this organization, to bring in positive changes that can lead us to better future. Also, I enjoy working with people; therefore, working with a great team like the one in HIHS, has tremendous impact on my work. Further, this role gives me a chance to maximize my potential and help others grow.

What are the issues you deal with and what’s the biggest challenge in your area?

As I am working in an institution that is in transition, there are a lot of ambiguities and there may be anxiety at times. In addition, keeping people motivated as the Institute evolves might be challenging. Therefore, the main challenge is finding ways to address everyone’s concerns, considering all points of view, and combining ideas that everyone can get behind without disrupting the entire process of change.

How are you effective in your role? What’s critical to your success in the role?

I believe one of my greatest strengths is that I have the forward-thinking ability, keeping the Institute at the forefront of education and innovation. I believe good communication skills and building professional relationships is vital for being successful in any role. Also, I lead by example. For instance, I still teach classes, engage in research and community activities. I practice openness and transparency – encouraging staff and students to approach me with any questions or concerns that they may have, and I work with them for them to reach their full potential.

How does innovation fit into your role as leader?

I have a long relationship with innovation as my PhD is in Nursing and Healthcare Innovation. I think innovation is not optional anymore in any role. At HIHS, innovation is one of our Institute values; therefore, we are committed to it and to incorporating and embracing it whenever it is needed. One of the examples is that we are working on building new relationships and strengthening our relationship with external and international organizations.  

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently on your rise to this position or while in it?

I have worked to grow steadily in my profession. However, I recognize that my abilities as a leader needs to constantly evolve alongside my growing experience in this position.

What’s your advice to someone who wants to be a leader in their area of interest?

My advice is that they have to have a written goal; act first and stay focused even if they fail; hold on to their professional and personal values, cherish their relationships and celebrate success.

What is your leadership philosophy?

Leadership to me is all about leading by example. While leading others, I believe in communicating openly with respect, maintaining integrity and authenticity.  I strive to make a difference by working with my team and challenging their abilities, keeping in mind the individual differences that each of them have. I ensure that I keep all whom l work with involved, informed and motivated to achieve the mission and vision of our Institute. While doing so, I seek to continue exhibiting consistent moral, ethical and professional values. Also, I continue to develop myself as a leader by seeking training opportunities and challenging my own abilities to maximize my potential.

What’s your hope for our profession?

As a nurse, I believe nurses have achieved a lot so far. However, I think we still need to work more on eliminating the barriers to nurses' full practice in their different roles especially when it comes to them practicing independently. I also hope that we have more nurses in leadership positions in the future.