1st October 2015

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New Health Chat

21st October King's Fund 5.30pm

Former boss of Addenbrooke's Keith McNeil

In conversation with Roy Lilley; gives his side of the story and tells us

what it is like to be a CEO in the NHS, the impossible demands and is the job worth doing.

This will be another sell-out   Tickets... here.

The new skill on the block
News and Comment from Roy Lilley
I'm typing this with my fingers crossed. Today, new friends I made in Cambridge, earlier this week, on the Leadership Academy's 'Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Programme', will discover if they have achieved their Masters Degrees.
I have every confidence Siobhan and the cool-cohort will deliver! Being a leader? My tip; be yourself but do it cleverly!
I know! There's more to it than that and there is the emerging science; 'followership'. Prof Birgit Schyns, at Durham Uni, teaches organisational behaviour and 'followership'.
Organisations that are inefficient, have staff who are alienated, antisocial or unethical, are seen to be badly led... but it is more complicated than that... as VW are finding out.
Leaders can (often unwittingly) distort behaviour by the use of regulation, targets and inspection. The NHS is very good at that; we deftly disregard the psychology of followership.
The preoccupation with leadership skills makes us forget about helping staff with the skills of followership. Leaders have bosses; so most are leaders and followers at the same time. This is a boundary that is hard to unfangle.
The construct of leadership; heroic, participative, autocratic, transactional, transformational and all the rest, is 30 years old and probably serves little purpose in today's nimble workplace. It survives because there is an industry built around leadership. People make a shedload of money talking about it and teaching it!
Leaders set the direction and off we go. We forget someone has to do the work and the people doing the work are usually the people with the real skills. They are the ones best placed to know when an instruction, policy or decision is poor.  They are the followers.
Ira Chaleff, in is book, The Courageous Follower, makes a really important point. He tells us that the response to Hurricane Katrina and the economic collapse might have been prevented or mitigated, if those lower in the hierarchy were successful at communicating to leaders the risks they saw in the system.
Of course, all this depends on the leader's approachability, willingness to listen and an understanding of followership. Real leaders will recognise that followers know what's-what and help develop the skills that are needed to follow.
An unwillingness to listen creates errors, waste, danger, stupidity and turns good people into whistle-blowers. For too long we have got whistle-blowing all wrong. It's in the title 'whistle-blower'; referee, red card, foul, infringement and sent off.
I say we want bell ringers; welcoming, celebratory, sentinel and warning us when we are near the rocks.
It goes wrong when followers think they just 'serve leaders' and leaders think they are there just to lead. They don't and they are not; the trick is for followers and leaders to serve a common purpose.
We all must all assume responsibility for a common purpose. We have collectively, to constructively challenge counterproductive policies and all of us participate in their transformation. It takes courage to do it alone but with common purpose we can achieve it together.
We have to arrive at the mind-set; leadership cannot work without followership.
If leaders have personality and knowledge and influence it does not mean followers are lightweight, ignorant and stupid. Success is a joint venture and leadership a conversation.
Followers pay little attention to leaders who are irrelevant but they do take into account what their peers think. They will often circumvent their leaders and very often hate them!
Real leaders know:
  • followers flourish in transparent environments, where they can accept the boss is the boss and not every unpopular decision is their fault;
  • where it's possible to disagree, in private and have a say
  • where followers can work on their own initiative because they will know best what needs to be done and will take on responsibility
  • followers have to be able to tell the stripped-pine truth based on the facts however unpalatable
  • followers may well make recommendations that will impact on them and others but a shared common purpose makes it impossible to do anything else...
Learning to lead is important but first we have to learn about followership, the new skill on the block.
Have a good weekend.

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Janet Davies
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NEW Health Chat
21st October
King's Fund - 5.30pm
Keith McNeil
Keith McNeil was, until very recently, the Chief Executive of Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge, one of the nation's highest profile hospitals and leadership positions.
He resigned in late September in the wake of what was described as a 'critical' CQC report that resulted in the trust being put into special measures.
What is the full story behind what has taken place?
Why is NHS leadership now such an apparently precarious occupation? What role is the money playing in inspection (or is it the other way around)? What lessons can be learnt from what appears to be a terrible mess that affects not just the hospital personnel but the reputation that they have and the impact on the research facilities that they partner with?
This is Keith McNeil's first live conference interview and will be a sell out.
19th November
King's Fund 5.30pm
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