Being in a leadership role is tough in any organisation. In the complex and demanding environment of the NHS it is many ways tougher than a lot of organisations.
There are still many who step up and show real leadership in the NHS. Some are more hesitant and reluctant. Some want to do it but are unsure or unclear. The reality is you can’t be a leader in the NHS in my view if:
You Can’t Get Along With A Diverse Range Of People
There are many different professions and lots of people who are immensely talented. There are also others who while not in professions play a vital role in the delivery of services. Being able to connect with and relate to a diverse range of people is essential.
You Can’t Deal With Uncertainty
Most will say that no two days are the same in their organisation and that they have to be adaptable. The only thing you can say with certainty in the NHS is that there is a lot of uncertainty, even in relation to demand for services.
You Are Not Resilient
There really is no such thing as an easy day. There will always be a lot of demands on you. Things will go wrong; there will be setbacks and times where you just feel stuck. In these situations you need to have the resilience to bounce back again and again.
You Take Criticism Personally
Hardly a day passes by when there is not something in the news or media about the NHS. Very often this is finding fault or problems. While it is hard and of course you need to pay attention to the feedback, you cannot allow yourself to take it personally.
You Think You Can Do It Alone
The bottom line is you can’t. It is the team around you and below you that determine the levels of success and the results achieved. There is only one of you and no matter how good you are the capacity you have is limited.
You Are Not Committed To The Core Purpose
What I noticed when I worked in the NHS is that the people who work in it care passionately about it and are committed to the core purpose of serving patients. If you are not committed to this it will always be a struggle.
You Get Too Attached To Targets
The Francis Report in to Mid Staffordshire demonstrated what happens when achieving financial targets becomes more important than quality and safety. The best leaders in the NHS can balance the quality, safety and performance agenda while making the best use of resources.
You Don’t Support Others
People in frontline healthcare delivery are often dealing with extreme pressure day after day for long periods. Successful leaders get this and support others through these challenging times.
The Bottom Line: Leading in the NHS is challenging and at the same time as many will tell you it is hugely rewarding too.
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