Leadership is very much ‘in’ at the moment, especially in Higher Education and the NHS.
Over the past few years the University has seen Senior Management Teams become Faculty Leadership Teams, Module and Programme Coordinators become Module and Programme Leaders, and wherever Leadership and Management are bracketed together, the ‘L’ word has tended to dominate.
Much is made in the NHS of its Leadership Academy, which boasts programmes named after inspirational leaders such as Nye Bevan, and while few people would disagree with the drive to improve NHS leadership, there is still a widespread view (despite a valiant attempt a few years ago by The King’s Fund to dispel this¹) that the NHS is over managed.
More recently, Nigel Edwards, Chief Executive at the Nuffield Trust, voiced his concern that ‘…the obsession with [leadership] has obscured the importance of effective administration and management’ and goes onto say that ‘It doesn’t matter how great a leader you are if you do not have the ability to execute your ideas…’² So is change on the way?
Just over a year ago, the Vice Chancellor set up the Leadership and Management Development Project to clarify what is expected of effective leaders and managers at the University and to create a framework to support the development of all staff with leadership and management responsibilities. The working group which I was a member of was drawn from all levels and areas of the University and a comprehensive Leadership and Management framework was signed off by the University Executive Board towards the end of last year.
The first workshop developed from the new framework will be piloted in a fortnight. This is a small but key step towards improving management and leadership at all levels across the University and through this enabling a more collegiate culture. Further modules and resources will follow.
Clearly effective leadership remains essential but we must equally support and celebrate everyone with or working towards management roles, including the many people with crucial line management responsibilities.
At the risk of seeming unfashionable, I say let’s hear it for our managers who, we should not forget, are also our leaders of the future.
¹ ‘Myth four: the NHS has too many managers.’ King’s Fund comment, 1 June 2011. https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/topics/nhs-reform/mythbusters/nhs-managers
² Edwards N (2016) ‘The NHS needs managers as well as leaders’. Nuffield Trust comment, 24 March 2016. https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/news-item/the-nhs-needs-managers-as-well-as-leaders