So what do we mean by this subtitle? The Commission found that while public services have recently focused on leaders as 'superheroes' – 'super-heads' in schools, elected local mayors, or 'turnaround' chief executives in the NHS – the way in which the NHS is changing requires a different model.
NHS leaders, whether commissioners or providers, have to influence others as much as they lead heroically – a model requiring additional, if not entirely different, skills. Health care and prevention has to be delivered through both co-operation with a wide range of bodies outside the NHS and the ability to work across boundaries within the NHS. Engaging and persuading others over the right course of action are becoming more important than leading the work of a single institution or organisation.
As Keith Grint and Clare Holt of Warwick Business School argue in a paper prepared for the commission, leaders must understand that leadership involves a relationship and can’t be understood without 'followership' – that is taking people with them and building a culture of leadership throughout teams and systems, not through top-down command and control.
Another inspirational speaker at our event last week, Wai-yin Hatton, Chief Executive of NHS Ayrshire and Arran, expressed it in this way, 'when the best leader's work is done, the people say "we did it ourselves".'
But what does this mean in practice? Here at the Fund we think it implies a focus on developing organisations and teams – not just individuals – with effective leadership across systems of care – not just institutions.
It was clear from the buzz at the conference itself and also on social media and in the news, that we touched a nerve with our report expressing our findings on both the future leadership of the NHS and also the value of good management. The popular view that NHS managers are bureaucrats who get in the way of, rather than support, front line services is clearly far from the truth. As Oliver Warren, Clinical Director of Prepare to Lead, NHS London, put it, 'clinicians don't have a professional monopoly on caring about patients.'
What leaders need to do now is to focus on leadership practices in their organisations rather than on individual competences and behavioural style (although clearly these are still important), creating the kinds of organisations where leadership is present everywhere, not just at the top, and reaches across professional and organisational boundaries to address the complex problems the health system will need to solve in the coming years.
See more from the launch of our report: NHS Leadership and Management Summit