Chief executive. Very competitive. That's all it said in the HSJ Job of the Week advertisement. So were they looking for a very competitive individual or was this a way of telling readers that a big salary was on offer? Or may be both! Is the implication it's the money that attracts the candidates, or for competitive could we read ambitious? 

According to research previously referred to in the HSJ the average tenure of a chief executive is now 18 months. I can't believe that's attractive, even football managers get a three year contract. How about fix term contacts to give a bit of much needed stability to NHS trusts.  
But what do we really know about what motivates public sector chief executives? 

At one time ambitious graduates would have entered the public sector as opposed to the private sector because they wanted to do something worthwhile  to make a difference not just make money. True the public sector did offer a good pension, generous holidays, job security and a career path, not that these things were of much interest to the young idealist.

As the public sector shrinks, as job security is no more, as managers have to work longer for a less generous pension, as the public sector adopts the management technics and language of the private sector what motives some one to apply for a chief executive post? Maybe if your ambitious and you've come this far it's just the next step on the career ladder. Maybe if you're young enough you think it is the way to a very lucrative post in the newly privatised services or may be a top civil service post and a knighthood. 

But I still hope that  underneath those sharp suits there are some rebellious,idealistic, would be chief executives with higher motives which like tattoos may be hidden from view but are permanent.  

Blair Mcpherson former Director of community services