Well, it’s the beginning of another new year and the usual optimistic platitudes have been spoken by the great and the good across the land.

Within another month we will have most likely forgotten all about these messages of optimism and hope and be in the thick of the challenges that were temporarily put aside over the festive break.

‘It’s difficult to assess the benefits of leadership investment because there are so many uncontrollable variables’

I’m sure no one is under any illusion that this year will be easy for the reasons we saw building up last year. Above all else, this year will also be the biggest test yet of leadership and management. Well perhaps we say that every year too, but this year is a test of two specific aspects of leadership and management.

For leadership it’s a test of the financial investment made in leadership development in recent years. It’s difficult to quantify nationally but it must total millions by now. And investing in leadership development is only worthwhile if it translates into bottom line performance.

Of course, it is extraordinarily difficult to assess the benefits of investment because there are so many uncontrollable variables that come into play when trying to exercise leadership. Furthermore, it’s a bit like advertising − businesses can never be certain of a direct correlation between advertising and sales, and so it is with leadership investment.

The importance of managers

Having said all that, I do hope someone is commissioning some evaluation to assess what they are getting for their money. If the gains aren’t great, the plug should be pulled and the money used to help fill the inevitable delivery gaps that will appear across the NHS.

‘Let’s stop talking so much about leadership and let’s hear it for good, old fashioned management’

Perhaps we should be diluting our preoccupation with leadership anyway because it has had the effect of almost sidelining the importance of management, which is actually what delivers good quality services for patients on a day to day basis.

This year is surely about delivery more than anything else. Delivering the bottom line means getting stuck in and understanding services inside out, so that when things go wrong they can be fixed straightaway.

There’s clearly an overlap between leadership and management but there’s been too much emphasis on the former and too little on the latter. Not everyone can be a leader but many more can be managers and take greater control of organisational life around them.

Delivering in 2013 will require more management and less leadership. So for once let’s stop talking so much about leadership and let’s hear it for good, old fashioned management.