How do we put the leaders back into NHS Leadership?

Those of you who are regular followers of my blog will remember that I blogged about NHS Leadership back in July 2014, questioning whether or not it was fit for the future – the 2020 challenge. Those who missed it can catch up here http://wp.me/p4Le91-l

It seems Sir Robert Naylor is asking the same question. In the HSJ this week he is calling for a ten year commitment to leadership development.  Many of our successful and tenured Chief Executives will be retiring in the next five to ten years and being a Chief Executive or Board Director isn’t the Holy Grail it once was so where’s the succession plan?

Examining the state of leadership is a crowded space so I thought I’d offer my thoughts on the potential solutions.

Twelve years ago, when I joined the NHS management training scheme on the  fast-track to Chief Executive, it was where the 65 of us bright eyed, bushy tailed ambitious graduates wanted to be within ten years. Well that time has passed and although a few of us may be Board Directors, very few have made leap to Chief Executive.   This is a conscious choice not because the talent isn’t there.  So what happened?  How do we re-ignite the enthusiasm and passion of the senior managers and clinicians in the NHS whilst ensuring we grow the next generation of talent?

I think there are two things we can do; 1) nurture the newly recruited talent we have just recruited for longer and 2) find those ex-MTS graduates and clinical leaders and managers that have been on a variety of training courses over the years but lost their passion and reignite it.  Passion is vital to success as Hegel said, We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”

Nurture the new recruits

I’ve never understood why the NHS graduate scheme is a two-year fixed term contract (except in the days when there were over 350 trainees, which was far too many). The average graduate costs £100k to train including placement costs, educational elements, conferences, learning sets, resources and salary.  We attract the best and the brightest, the training scheme is award winning and it’s hugely oversubscribed.  We train them hard both experientially and academically but after two years the NHS waves a fond farewell to all that talent, wishing them well with the job hunt (hoping they stay in the NHS) and for the future.  No requirement to stay in the NHS, no continued talent management or leadership development and no idea where they are.  Swallowed up by the system to sink or swim.

Any other company makes sure they keep hold of their talent and invests in their next generation of leaders for more than the initial two years.  Securing and nurturing trainees for several more years on an alumni programme will consolidate their training and accelerate their learning into the new type of leader that we need in the NHS.

Seek out the trained talent

As an ex-trainee and a steering group member for the London Scheme, I’m passionate about the development of our future generation of leaders but I also feel that there are a lot of ex-Management Trainees (MTS), senior clinicians and managers that had extensive training through the Modernisation Agency, Institute of Healthcare Improvement and now the Leadership Academy that could be the key to unlocking the issues of not being able to recruit to over 10% of Board positions.

We need to find a way of finding those talented individuals who are most likely in middle to senior manager roles who, after ten years of the command and control culture, have decided that being in a leadership role is not for them.  We need these managers to stand up and become the culture they want to work in.  One of dispersed leadership that listens to staff and puts the decision making power back to the frontline.

We need a talent development programme for them that enables them to fulfil their potential and actually start to aspire to leadership roles.

First steps

I know those hidden leaders are out there and we need them, the NHS needs them and most importantly the patients need them.  A survey by IPSOS MORI found that 75% of the public are proud of the NHS and feel it is one of the UK’s greatest achievements and, in my book that is worth protecting.

It is a privilege to work in the NHS and we should be proud of that every day. There needs to be a common goal for the NHS to strive for that isn’t centrally dictated but one that is about seeking pride in everything we do and striving for the benefit of the wider NHS not just ourselves or our own organisations.

By holding on to the talent that we have just recruited into the NHS, making it a career to be proud of and by reigniting the passion and enthusiasm in our middle to senior clinicians and managers through dispersed leadership and putting the decisions back to the frontline staff, we can take the first steps on our journey of putting the leaders back into NHS Leadership.




One thought on “How do we put the leaders back into NHS Leadership?

  1. I agree with this. The NHS Is the most cherished organisation within the UK and perhaps the most envied in the world. However, in times of austerity and constant change, the need for effective leadership is needed more now than in any previous time. In my post on leadership (see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140715123920-28143062-12-great-leadership-traits?trk=prof-post ) I outlined the 12 most important traits of leadership. My experience of the NHS (from an outside-in perspective) is that the one trait most often missing in the list is Courage and this has held the NHS back from making critical changes necessary to improve. It doesn’t help of course that neither do any of the politicians in (or out) of Government.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s