I used to work in what a social service inspector referred to as “a castle”, complete with drawbridge. It was the head quarters of social services, a grand old gothic building that was originally the station hotel and was accessed via a narrow rickety bridge.
‘Nybordg is a very “human” leader; the opposite of the traditional macho manager so often associated with leadership in the NHS’
I was reminded of this while watching Borgen, the Danish political drama. “Borgen” is what the locals call their parliament and it means castle. What I like about Borgen is the prime minister, Birgitte Nybordg, is the type of leader you would want: she has integrity, she has good people management skills and − with the help of her spin doctor − she gets her message across through some great appearances on TV.
She wants to do the right thing but she recognises that politics (particularly in a coalition) involves compromises. She deals with hostile elements in the media, dirty tricks from political opponents and opportunistic allies. Nybordg avoids being compromised by the interests of big business, but the demands of the job damage her family, leading to divorce and teenage daughter who develops a disabling anxiety illness, which is made considerably worse by intrusive press and political opponents who seek to exploit the family’s use of a private hospital.
The leadership style of the central character is very attractive it presents a picture of a decent person who is successful in managing change without having to compromise her values or integrity. She is a very “human” leader; the opposite of the traditional macho manager so often associated with leadership in the NHS.
‘She is described as a bridge builder due to her desire to bring about reforms that all parties will sign up to’
This does not mean that she shies away from unpopular decisions, as in the episode where although she is against the war she doesn’t pull out the troops in the face of more soIdiers being killed but controversially increases the countries military commitment. She is a negotiator and mediator, as shown when acting on behalf of the UN she chairs a peace conference to end a civil war in an African country.
At one point in her administration Nybordg is described as a bridge builder due to her desire to bring about reforms that all parties will sign up to in the belief that this is the only way to ensure that change is successful and lasting. This however is a determined and driven leader who is prepared to sacrifice her closest political friend and mentor in order to get her legislation through parliament.
In the end the only thing she is not prepared to sacrifice is her much neglected family. Her husband, initially very supportive, finds it increasingly difficult to give up his own successful career and their relationship ends in a divorce she doesn’t want. The message appears to be that you can’t have it all.