As part of Health Education England (HEE), the NHS Leadership Academy’s philosophy is simple – great leadership development improves leadership behaviours and skills. Better leadership leads to better patient care, experience and outcomes. Our purpose is to work with our partners to deliver excellent leadership across the NHS to have a direct impact on patient care. We offer a range of tools, models, programmes and expertise to support individuals, organisations and local partners to develop leaders, celebrating and sharing where outstanding leadership makes a real difference.

Our mission

To develop outstanding leadership in health, in order to improve people’s health and their experiences of the NHS. We’ll aim to do this by:


  • Broadening, and where necessary changing, the range of leadership behaviours people in the health system use


  • Professionalising leadership: raising the profile, performance and impact of health system leaders, requiring and supporting them to demonstrate their fit and proper readiness to carry out their leadership role and defining what we expect from them


  • Working in partnership to make leadership in the health system more inclusive and representative of the communities it serves


  • Developing leaders who are more innovative and can create a climate where innovation can flourish

Why does leadership in the NHS need to change?

Quite simply, because there’s so much evidence connecting better leadership to better patient care.


Francis, Berwick, Keogh point to it and so does leading academic, Michael West. They all make the link between good leadership and making a positive difference to patient care, care outcomes and the experience of care.


And there is far too much evidence linking failure in leadership to failures in patient care too.


In fact, getting leadership right makes a very positive difference.


And it doesn’t happen by accident.


Recent research from the internationally respected Development Dimensions International (DDI) on global leadership showed a real problem with the perceived quality of leaders globally – it said there was no evidence that the high quality leaders we need in the NHS can be recruited from elsewhere.


The fact is, we are much more likely to be successful by deploying tactics to ensure we ‘grow our own’ more effectively and that the routine development of talented individuals, linked to career progression, becomes a core part of our business.

What’s our approach?

Although ambitious and innovative, the philosophy behind the leadership development principles of the Academy are simple and well proven:


  • For leaders to be at their most effective they need confidence in their role.


  • To secure confidence they need competence, skills, expertise, experience and support.  This comes from expert development and training as well as on the job learning.


  • Leaders need to have a breadth of behaviours to draw on to exercise their role in a multi-agency, complex system such as health care.  Lack of development tends to result in leaders having a very narrow range of styles to draw on.


  • Leaders need the right behaviours to build alliances with a wide range of professionals and across organisational boundaries to serve the needs of diverse communities with enduringly complex needs.  The success of the NHS over the next decade or so will rely heavily on the behaviours adopted by healthcare leaders at all levels being able to work with leaders in other parts of the public and private system.


  • Leaders need to be able to engage and empower those working with them, and rely less on old style command and control approaches that inhibit innovation, discretionary effort and a more caring and considerate climate to work that generate both employee engagement and compassion in care.



How are we getting there?

Designed around a new model for leadership in healthcare, our ‘professionalisation’ of leadership agenda seeks to recognise the importance of leaders at every level in the NHS.


We want leaders to be appropriately qualified, prepared for and able to do the jobs for which they are applying.


Our programmes are already equipping leaders with the skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours they need to be successful.  Over time we hope that these qualifications become the benchmark for readiness for a more senior position.


Read more about why investing in leadership is crucial for the NHS’ future.


Supporting documents

Business Plan 2016/17
Business Plan 2016/17 (2 MB)


Annual review 2014/15
Annual review 2014-15 (2 MB)


Executive Summary – Business Plan 2015/16
Executive-summary-business-plan-2015-16.docx (56 KB)

Further reading

Thank you

Thank you for your trust and support to date, together we can make an amazing difference.

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