In difficult circumstances, leaders are upbeat about the future and express how grateful they are to be doing the job, says Michael Younger

Korn Ferry is a proud sponsor of this year’s HSJ Top Chief Executives list. While the aim is to recognise and celebrate good leadership, we wanted to explore what was special about leadership in 2017.

How have STPs affected the influence and effectiveness of provider CEOs? What is the CEOs influence beyond their organisation, and how does it play into the development of ‘place based’ thinking? And how have the ever present increased demands on services, financial pressures, staffing, media scrutiny and public perception made the CEO role even more difficult?

In association with Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry

We met a number of CEOs from the list to explore these questions. When we talked about their priorities, the idea of ‘place’, and regional influence was indeed a recurring theme. A common perspective has been that whilst STPs are still in their infancy, the provider CEO has had an even greater voice and influence.

Many felt their role was to focus on patient outcomes across a region, and support driving changes needed to improve pathways – which by definition meant putting ‘place’ above organisational form. However, the ongoing simultaneous challenge is how they keep their own staff engaged and their organisation on track, when the thinking about place may ultimately affect the shape of that same organisation. In some cases, CEOs recognised that their trust might disappear altogether.

‘In nearly every conversation we had, chief executives were upbeat, and positive about the future’

This reality has demanded an enormous degree of resilience for many involved, and required them to approach collaborative working in new ways.

Against this backdrop, in nearly every conversation we had, chief executives were upbeat, and positive about the future. All face the challenge of maintaining and improving quality while driving efficiency. All approached it with a can-do attitude. One outcome was that perhaps surprisingly, chief executives welcomed the CQC regulation regime as a supportive and developmental process. In fact, it was staff engagement that trumped CQC inspection as a greater cause for concern for many of these CEOs.

A final observation we heard from all CEOs we met was that being a chief executive in the NHS was a privilege. A challenging, yet rewarding role, where you made a real difference to people’s lives. All CEOs were engaged with patients and staff, not through a sense of duty, but a genuine interest in their people and the populations they serve.

Michael Younger is head of executive search, Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry helps leaders, organisations, and societies succeed by releasing the full power and potential of people. Our Health and local government team works extensively across the sector helping you find the leaders you need and turn organisational and system strategies into reality.

Korn Ferry Hay Group helps you align your people and your organization to your strategy – developing, engaging and rewarding your employees to reach new heights.



Top chief executives roundtable, part one: dilemmas of CQC scrutiny