Axio Development

Executive Leadership skills in NHS Consultants

As a part of the recent high profile trail of an NHS consultant a report was prepared bemoaning the lack of effective executive leadership skills and the ‘high regard’ that consultants are almost always held in regardless of their skills. Here is a quote from the report:

“Sir Ian Kennedy review of the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust about Mr Ian Paterson’s Surgical Practice; Lessons to be Learned; and Recommendations

The Board must expect of its Executive Leaders that it provide the Trust with the necessary operational leadership skills.  The Board must ensure that, as managers, they act as managers and leaders. They must not act as clinicians, still part of the system of hierarchies and tribalism which characterises healthcare. Indeed, one of their roles as leaders should be to breakdown these hierarchies as healthcare becomes increasingly a team enterprise. The Board must be vigilant to identify failures in executive leadership skills, such as staff feeling bullied, or not listening to unwelcome news.

A person appointed may be technically sound but have personal qualities or characteristics which mean that s/he will not best serve the interests of patients and the Trust. This may be because of her/his attitudes to colleagues or to patients, or both. The process should be supplemented by tests designed to identify relevant personality traits, not least collegiality, empathy, and dedication to service and to patients. If a candidate demonstrably lacks these, s/he should not be appointed.  At the very least, a probationary period can be used during which a consultant can be required to attend appropriate training as a condition of being retained.

A consultant is a leader. S/he trains others, leads teams, represents the unit or team at larger gatherings. If any particular consultant behaves in a way which shows poor leadership, s/he must be confronted immediately and managed robustly.”

The Axio Development Executive Leadership course helps senior people develop these skills. Why is it that organisations, the NHS just being one of many, naturally see clearly the need for technical qualifications and experience, but not the need for effective executive leadership ability? At Axio this is our reason to exist – to develop in people the high level executive skills that will deliver robust outcomes which partner the needs of the organisation with the needs of the staff and customers/patients, without undue deference to seniority or perceived greater status. Check out our programme at 

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