Macho management in the NHS must be ditched, said IHSM director designate Stuart Marples in his debut speech to the conference.
In the last two months alone, two colleagues had contacted him 'to say they had been asked to reach decisions to leave their organisations within 24 hours'.
The reality of management life had to reflect the theory, he said. 'We know this is not the way to treat people. Why is it still happening? If we can't treat people better than this, how can we treat patients successfully?'
Mr Marples defended the government's waiting-list initiative, quoting the example of his father who, after a series of strokes, developed cataracts and had to wait three months to see a consultant, only to be told he would have to wait 18 months for an operation.
'I know that implementing the waiting-list targets is not easy for everyone involved. Some would sooner see the money given to the many other priorities around. But behind every single number on the waiting list is a story like that of my father.'
He added: 'We should want to reduce waiting lists because it's the right thing to do... We should recognise that some changes are overdue and others wouldn't have been necessary if we had been up to speed already.'
He went on to praise managers for their commitment. 'The first rota produced for the millennium period at my hospital was that for the managers. Not for them the argument about money, time off in lieu, the issue of parties and families - only what is needed for the good of the patients...
'I do not claim we care more than other staff, but we do come in out of hours for no extra payments.
'We ensure changes of policy get implemented, not resisted. We do take 3, 4 or 5 per cent hits on our costs every year. Far from not caring, few care more.'
But he added that the NHS manager's job 'cannot be done by people working all hours of the day and night. We have to find a better way.
'We have to empower ourselves and those with whom we work to leave on time and have fun while at work.'