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8 October 2012
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Don't Stand So Close To Me.....distancing yourself from leadership?

Seeking solace from the rigours of the day job, you secrete yourself away in your office and sip at that much-needed cup of coffee. Targets not met, staff not happy, it's all looking grim. You need inspiration. You need a boost - and not just caffeine. You need some inspirational words of leadership to see you though the day. So where better to turn to than your e-inbox? Surely someone will have taken the trouble to have emailed you those words which mean so much when all around you seems...well...a bit rubbish.

Does that ring any bells with you? No, me neither. Yet if we're not careful, modern healthcare - where we work in an organisation, not a hospital, where we have corporate challenges, not dreams and aspirations, will pull us under into a parallel universe where leadership is often articulated through the intranet in a series of dire messages and memos. Without the time to properly engage with your colleagues, it's really tempting to issue missives - updates, 'invitations' to attend vital meetings where the only available slot is three months on Monday at 8am, advice to a junior team member who's having problems locating their supervisor to complete vital documents - via a casually-tapped-off email. There: issue dealt with. Problem solved - or rather, postponed.

Make no mistake - your state-of-the-art healthcare organisation would rather you dealt with most things virtually through the cyberweb. Apart from those vital meetings and - ideally - premeetings of course! Preferably using a handheld or android if you can, please - we'll pay, don't worry! - so you can attend to these matters over dinner, or playing with the kids, or relaxing - what was that again?! - in the bar. And thus you can contribute to a lean, ultra-efficient model of clinical engagement and support which slices through the pesky downtime of walking to people's offices to speak with them, trying to find people on the phone, or the nightmare scenario of having to share lunch with them in the hospital cafateria.

What that state-of-the-art organisation hasn't had time to read - too busy rising to the corporate challenge! - is Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind's very important and readable article in the Harvard Business Review of June 2012 which, in eight succinct pages, will remind you what it is that you thought leadership was and should be. They expound the notion of really effective leadership as being akin to an ordinary person to person conversation. They remind us that the key preliminary to leadership involves building trust through mental and emotional proximity. They bemoan the use of every available communications medium as a megaphone. And they underline the real value to be gained from listening to the personal stories which colleagues can bring to the table in collaboratively chomping away not just at a shared lunch but at a shared problem, too.

So next time your eyes glaze over as you skim-read yet another "red exclamation mark" email which demands, so it says, an immediate reply concerning some seemingly important issue, do the sender a favour - delete it, give them a call, and invite them over for a coffee to suss out what you can do to help them solve the problem.  They'll thank you for the coffee and might even thank you for the leadership. But the former is more important.

 

Ref: Groysberg B, Slind M [2012]. Leadership is a Conversation. Harvard Business Review Ref R1206D

 

 

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Darren Kilroy's picture

Darren Kilroy

Darren Kilroy FCEM M.Ed. Ph.D. is a Consultant in Emergency Medicine in Cheshire, and Director for Network Leadership and Development in Unscheduled Care. He is also Hon. Senior Lecturer in Emergency Care at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Clinical Lead for Unscheduled Care at NHS Stockport. His main areas of interest are the challenges of clinical and managerial engagement around emergent clinical commissioning models, and the role of clinical leadership within transformational change.

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11 years 8 months ago

Harvard Business Review

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