I watched with a smile the recent TV programmes celebrating the life of the late Keith Floyd, the first chef to bring personality to TV cookery programmes.
He was hugely entertaining and, yes, also idiosyncratic, occasionally politically incorrect, rude and arrogant. In other words, he was comfortable in his own skin even if his success was diluted by personal flaws.
Translate this to leadership and it’s the Keith Floyd-esque characters who push the boundaries, always bounce back and rarely give up. They will be edgy, occasionally difficult and never wholly acceptable to those in authority. But they will get things done, and make life challenging - and developmental - for those around them.
The Keith Floyds of leadership will deliver bottom-line performance but they will not be a clone merging into the greyness of a hundred other leaders. They will be interesting, amusing and irritating often all at the same time.
I have met people who have sniffed at the Keith Floyds of leadership. These armchair critics value conformance above all else and are driven more by their own, often transparent desire to be accepted into the establishment.
Sure, a degree of conformance is necessary but leadership is above all else an emotionally driven experience. At a time when NHS leadership is going to be extraordinarily tough we need more individualistic leaders to inspire the service as a whole. We need colourful leaders to help lift people from what will be the inevitable grind of delivering in a very challenging environment and make them smile.
We need real leaders who have an edge, are pushy, can generate an emotional response, possess personal colour, will occasionally fail but bounce back, and are both genuine and interesting. Just like Keith Floyd.