Management development gurus have written a motivational book of 'what not to do' for would-be great leaders, writes Stuart Shepherd

No doubt a fair few NHS managers count themselves among the 15 million or so souls in possession of a copy of Stephen R Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Many will have tried to find inspiration in its pages. Some may even have looked to the lives of the greats like Gandhi or Martin Luther King for lessons.

That could be a waste of time, according to London Business School centre for management development fellow Steven Sonsino.

The best thing, as he argues in the book he wrote with Jacqueline Moore, The Seven Failings of Really Useless Leaders, is to find out what you are doing that gets in the way of being more inspirational yourself.

What Steven hears a lot of public sector managers saying - they currently make up about a third of his client group and their interest seems to be growing - is that their organisations need to behave more like a business.

'Why do that,' he asks, in a point that is elaborated in his presentation at this year's NHS Employers annual conference this week, 'when most businesses, like much in life, are mediocre?'

Managers from all sectors are persistently doing things that stop them being motivational - like killing emotion in the workplace.

Better they find out what people talk about around the water cooler, how they are feeling and how they came across as leaders than - unreasonably - expect employees to leave all their troubles at home. One of the seven failings that seems to resonate the most with health service managers is that poor leaders kill enthusiasm,' says Steven. 'People are motivated not by money but by challenging and rewarding jobs with a sense of purpose. Too many managers, however, find great people and train the heck out of them,' he says.

'Instead of letting them get on with the job they gave them they micro-manage them to within an inch of their lives.'