I read an article in the HSJ recently, NHS leadership in the recession, that talked about 'innate natural leadership [being] required to inspire a hard-pressed workforce'.
I think this is fascinating, as it brings us back to the individual first and foremost and an exploration of their leadership capacity and capability. How do you capture and articulate the concept of innate natural leadership?
The same article also talks about leaders as superstars who 'can adopt a new toolkit that embraces creativity, innovation, commerciality and deep financial awareness'. Of course these areas are vital, but we also need to ensure that the leader is grounded and confident at an intrinsically personal level.
For any leader (in this case the clinical leader), this includes an awareness of and belief in self, an awareness of their impact on others and being highly attuned to their own and others' emotions. It also requires them to reflect, support, challenge and be creative.
Lord Darzi's report one year on, High Quality Care for All: Our journey so far, highlights the need for a culture that enables 'all clinicians [to] feel able and obliged to step up and lead the changes required to improve quality for patients'. While this won't be easy, and isn't helped by the NHS facing tough financial times, it's still an exciting and remarkable opportunity.
It's right that clinical leaders should take ownership of budgets and be accountable for financial performance and quality.
However I think we shouldn't forget that when many clinicians entered their profession, these things were unlikely to have been top of their priority list. They were far more likely to have entered their profession with strongly held beliefs around direct and tangible patient care.
I believe that most clinicians, irrespective of their background or specialism, will strongly identify with their practice and hold values that are deeply rooted in patient health and wellbeing. When developing clinicians as leaders, we need to work with and develop that identity and truly appreciate the importance of those core values.
The QIPP (quality, innovation, productivity and prevention) programme is key to building on the progress made with High Quality Care for All, and clinicians have a central and key role to play in delivering this.
We should support and develop clinicians as leaders who can make progressive and innovative changes at an organisational level.
At the same time, we also need to nurture clinicians as individuals. I strongly believe that only a leader who is in a healthy state of mind, both emotionally and behaviourally, can make a fundamental difference to the wider system.
But what do you think? We’d like to get your thoughts on what's important through comments on this blog, to feed into the content and design of our clinical leadership programmes.