Published: 13/05/2004, Volume II4, No. 5905 Page 8

Managers and staff in the NHS in Scotland should have more confidence and less cynicism about their ability to achieve success, according to the chair of the Scottish NHS Confederation.

Christine Lenihan warned that confidence could be 'encouraged or extinguished', and called on managers at the first annual conference of the Scottish NHS Confederation to develop the potential of future leaders.

'What we lack is not achievement, but a collective lack of confidence in future achievement, ' she said.

Ms Lenihan described speaking to an NHS employee who had devised a way to improve her practice, but did not share it with others.

'She said to me: 'When you do something well, people do not like you very much. It doesn't make you very popular.' There is a cynicism and resentment of achievement.'

She continued: 'We know that confidence can be encouraged or extinguished. Perhaps the great challenge is whether we develop potential.'

Leadership was a major theme of the conference, which attracted 300 people - more than twice the number that the organisers had initially anticipated.

Keynote speaker mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington left most people in the room spellbound with a description of the leadership qualities necessary for a successful ascent of Everest.

He told the story of a Norwegian Everest expedition of 1985, led and largely funded by millionaire Arne Haess, which achieved a record in getting 18 climbers and sherpas to the top in three separate ascents.

Sir Chris, then aged 50, was an adviser as well as a participant, having previously led a successful expedition to the summit.

Speaking of how Mr Haess had encouraged the others to speak English at mealtimes so that Sir Chris was not excluded, he said:

'Leadership is not just about being forceful and driving. It is being kind and sensitive.'