The appointment of the former chief executive of Marks & Spencer to advise the government on leadership development in the NHS is another example of too much emphasis on leadership and too much admiration for private sector management.
‘It appears that the government is the last to know the age of heroic leadership is over’
I subscribe to the view that management skills are transferable across the public sector, but I do not assume that rejuvenating a high street retail chain qualifies one for transforming failing hospitals. Well, not the care and treatment part though I am sure he could offer useful advise on the retail side of the modern hospital campus.
As for adopting the education model of appointing superheads to take over failing hospitals, this assumes the problem is leadership and what we need is another hero. It appears that the government is the last to know the age of the heroic leadership is over.
No superheads for the NHS
Charismatic leaders inspire personal loyalty; people work for them. They sweep in and impose radical change, they get things done and then they go. Having upset partners as they brushed aside opposition and imposed their will, alienated professions and left customers/citizens feeling ignored, their’s is an unhelpful legacy.
In the absence of their strong leadership, the tension between budget cuts and standards of services suppressed under their regime quickly surface.The next chief executive has to rebuild bridges with partners, regain the trust of the local community and re-establish the cooperation of staff.
‘Governments need things to change quickly because next time the other lot might get in and change things’
Despite the well documented failure of private sector management coming in to run public sector services, the government holds to the belief that the private sector is best. Despute the fact that management schools all champion a management culture in which all managers have a leadership role, including those delivering the NHS fast track executive programme, the government sticks to the idea that an elite group of super heads will deliver the desired transformation.
This is about ideology and impatience. Governments need things to change quickly because next time the other lot might get in and change things.The NHS certainly needs good managers, but it doesn’t need superheads. It doesn’t need more overconfident, over-paid,chief executives with above average verbal reasoning skills and below average empathy and insight into their own behaviour. It does need managers at every level with good people management skills, integrity and insight into how their behaviour effects those around them.