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Blog: Inspiration in the evening

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At the end of a gruelling first day on the cancer leadership programme, Liz Darlison gets a chance to relax and be inspired

At the end of our first day on the Cancer Leadership Programme dinner was served in our own private dining room. I sat next to Emma Stilwell, Sister in Critical Care at the Royal Marsden.

It was clear the combination of the day's icebreakers and self-discovery sessions, not to mention the evening's wine, had loosened tongues - before long we were chatting comfortably about family, friends, relationships, marriage and major life experiences. The food was delicious and the evening quickly moved onto the after dinner speaker, Royal Marsden chief executive Cally Palmer. As RMH Chief Exec somehow Cally wasn’t what I expected, she is young, female, very glamorous and a busy mum.


I was inspired by her. She showed that you can have it all, and the more she revealed about herself the more we learnt how she adores and derives enormous pleasure from her job.

Throughout her after dinner talk and afterward she was so personable, full of anecdotes from her experiences, and always smiling as she walked us through her professional background. I was struck by how loyal Cally is to the NHS, to the Royal Marsden, and to staff and patients. I consider loyalty a key requirement for a leader. If you can show unquestionable loyalty to a person, organisation or a project your genuine, honest belief inspires, it nurtures trust and cements a team.

Joys of the job

Cally answered our questions with a huge amount of honesty. Her overriding message was: enjoy what you do and be happy in your work, you'll probably be doing it a long time and you will do it better happy.

Royal Marsden chief nurse Shelly Dolan also joined us for the evening events, and was scheduled to spend the whole of the following day with us. As we all left the dinner room at about 11.30pm I remember feeling very envious of the Royal Marsden nursing team. Having such senior leaders from their organisation spend so much time, and be so open and honest with us, demonstrated such commitment that I felt slightly overwhelmed.

Despite only one and a half glasses of wine, I slept like a baby!

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