An interesting current affairs piece on the BBC news website this weekend caught my eye: ‘What does a pope do?’ The same could be asked of NHS managers.
‘Given all managers are affected by events at Mid Staffordshire, they cannot afford to be complacent about their image and credibility’
Given the current bashing and poor public image being suffered by NHS managers post-Francis report, I hope someone, somewhere, is thinking about how to build their public reputation. Of course, it would be a mistake to have a nationally, centrally orchestrated campaign − heaven forbid − but there’s much to be achieved locally.
Pope Francis is clearly taking a different line to his predecessors, divesting himself of pomp and palatial offices and choosing to live a simple life. He’s also getting closer to the people he serves by, among other things, inviting guests to his early morning mass − including Vatican gardeners, street sweepers, kitchen staff and maids working at the hotel where he is staying.
Lessons from another Francis
There’s little doubt that although his approach is genuinely motivated, it does represent an attempt to reframe the leadership of the Catholic church in light of the scandals of recent years.
Now, there is of course little to compare popes and NHS managers; the latter do not have the symbolic importance of the former, for example. But the new pope is clearly implementing some simple leadership lessons, the most important of which is that leadership is an emotionally dynamic relationship not based on hierarchical position.
He’s emphasising this by forgoing some of the trappings associated with the position of his office. There are many excellent NHS managers but given they all are affected by events at Mid Staffordshire, they cannot afford to be complacent about their image and credibility. Opening up the opportunity to show what local management contributes to the provision of good quality services would be an excellent start to rebuilding confidence in the local NHS.