What’s leadership all about? Is it about leading from the front, displaying heroic decision making, that leaves your staff gasping at your bravery, innovation and business savvy?


Is it about the bottom line, bringing in the bucks (or in the case of the NHS, reducing the management costs and restructuring) and demonstrating business acumen, ruthless negotiation and an ability to win?


Leadership in the NHS surely requires steely nerves, patience, humour and a raft of other qualities – and there are endless courses that can teach you how to lead, whilst providing a steady income for the providers.


Put “leadership skills” into Google and you will find over 27 million results. It’s a fertile field, and Amazon has 168,809 books on leadership.  Where to start? How on earth can you decide which course to sign up for, which book to read?  It seems everyone has something to contribute, another new idea, the latest thinking, the next big idea.


Years ago I did a management development course that drew on the work of John Adair. You’ve probably come across his action centred leadership, which divides process and content, and looks at task, team and individual.  


But what resonates for me today is his “Short Course on Leadership”.  It doesn’t take long – here it is:


The six most important words………           I admit I made a mistake

The five most important words……           I am proud of you

The four most important words……           What is your opinion?

The three most important words….          If you please.

The two most important words……           thank you.

The one most important word………           we


And the last, least important word…..       I.



It’s been around a while: does it still work? What would you take out, what would you add?