Partha Kar

What constitutes an NHS leader these days?

Is leadership a cult? I must admit to getting a bit confused nowadays.

I am a big fan of folks “stepping up to the plate” but recently I genuinely can’t understand some of the language being used.

What do the following mean? Moving forward; working in synergy; distributed leadership; empathetic vision; and let’s not forget patient centred care.

As someone commented on Twitter – how many other types of care is there?

Now before I get condemned to being someone who just needs to attend a course on leadership, my question is what actually defines a leader?

I have heard things like insight, determination, empathy. I have even heard that actually everyone is a leader. Well, here’s a newsflash: I know plenty of professionals who actually don’t want to be a leader.

Quote unquote: “I just want to do my job well and go home”. Does that make them less of a person?

Nope, I know them, and would happily be treated by them because they are grade A professionals. So what is leadership now? A tag? A title? Something which makes us all feel important? Is it about who shouts loudest?

Or, is it about someone who has shown outcomes which have improved patient care?

The explosion of social media has created a lot of keyboard leaders – the ones who have an opinion about anything from Wenger’s transfer policy to Obama’s healthcare policy in 140 characters or less.

I have been doing management for 5 years now – so the question is, am I a leader? Well I am a member of FMLM. I work with the Kings Fund. I lead a team. I have won awards and made a few lists.

Does that make me a leader? Or, is it because I drop hints on twitter that I am bloody awesome?

I have never done any leadership course or degree. Maybe that disqualifies me.

All interesting questions, but it rarely matters. Most of these leadership courses have little to teach you because most of the speakers have done little bar move from one post to another – with debatable improvements in patient care.

If you want to be a leader and make a difference, here’s my tip – do good to the person in front of you.

Start small, learn from folks, even outside the NHS, who have succeeded and see what they brought to work that made them and their team successful and  delivered outcomes.

All leaders have strengths and flaws whether they be Churchill, Gandhi or even Alex Ferguson.

Don’t attend a course and be told to be perfect and develop all the ‘right’ skills. Rather work with colleagues who complement you, and build a strong, multi-skilled team. That, my friends, is what distributed leadership is about – working as a jigsaw and being accountable together.

So the next time a list of leaders and influencers comes out, look at it and think why they are there. As for me, I always ask one thing?

If I am not on the list, is it because I upset someone by being forthright? Or if I am on the list, then is it because someone had to tick a box on ethnicity?

The sad bit is that I’m genuinely not sure any more.

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