“Where have all the leaders gone?”

In the wake of Lord Oakeshott’s vicious rebuke of George Osborne, I’ve been drawn to a rather glaring observation.

Where have all the leaders gone?

I mean the ‘work experience chancellor’ is a rather harsh description for George Osborne but worse still because there is a grain of truth to it. A lack of worldly experiences could really be hampering the development of some of the world’s greatest nations. Are leaders born or are they chiselled out of the ether of life experience? I mean the word leader has really become a brand or a stamp placed upon people with increasing ease.

Let’s take the NHS for example. Doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals are branded leaders on an alarmingly regular basis based purely on what I can only determine as elder status and in some cases being the only soul in the room willing to deal with middle management and the never-ending bureaucracy. Even more unnerving would be those who are using their new ‘leader’ status to merely climb the rungs of power treating their new post as simply a pit stop in their inevitable rise to world domination.

Now, of course only those who aspire to lead will actually go on to lead. However, the definition of leadership has become confused with the notion of being ‘the boss’ and in some sectors is even viewed as such. Worse still, ‘leadership’ roles are handed out seemingly as prizes whereas in many cases they are a tool to pass on difficult tasks and unrealistic objectives.

It’s my view that those who want to lead must be identified early and nurtured for their prospective future roles. In healthcare, one of our biggest issues is that there is not enough of an emphasis upon developing leaders from a clinical background. Instead, we are merely selecting the most senior person who is willing to take the responsibilities of management.

Herein lies another problem since there is an ingrained culture of mistrust and suspicion between clinical staff and management. In many cases, the most senior staff who represent clinicians have an already fixed word view where adaptation and acceptance of new ideas and reforms simply have no place. Instead these ‘leaders’ become obstacles and worse those leaders/clinicians/managers who are trying to bring in genuine quality reforms are hampered by never ending bureaucracy.

So where have all the leader’s gone? I’m sure they’re there. We can find them and we can nurture them but we need to develop the right infrastructure and cultural systems to bring these people to the fore instead of merely branding anyone and everyone a “leader”.

Leadership like anything else is a combination of nature and nurture.

It’s time we did a bit of the nurturing.

Dr Saif F Abed
Founding Partner
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd
http://www.abedgraham.com
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