Introduction Text:
I see courage every day in those working in the NHS; the professional courage to face up to colleagues and tackle inappropriate behaviour, to speak out freely.

The personal courage needed to face again the challenges of such a stressed and pressured environment and do so in the hope of making a difference. The courage to step in to new roles, new organisations or face a new and different future. All of this is present in our NHS and in some of those around us.

Mark Newbold brought that to life for me this week in an incredibly courageous move to put into action all he talks about in terms of the courage needed as a leader in standing up for what they believe in. I don’t know enough about the context or situation to have a view on the rights and wrongs of the role Monitor have played – my view is as uninformed as most others. But I do know a little of Mark. And often over the past few years when I have tried to identify a leader who embodies what we believe in terms of transparency, patient focus and integrity he is usually one of the very first names to come to mind.

We talk on our leadership programmes of knowledge, skills and abilities needed that can be learned, behaviours that can be developed but values that need to be inherent, real and embodied. I know Mark has the values utterly congruent with what we want for our future NHS. The NHS really does hold up a mirror up to who we can be, who we want to be and who we are encouraged to be. I see too often people who by blind compliance, self-serving promotion, sycophantic loyalty to those in positions of power – seem to thrive and grow – or at least are left alone where they are perceived to do no harm to the right people.

And still too often I see those people who take a stand, speak out, and take calculated, measured and appropriate risks in order to serve others better, punished for trying or punished for the wrong thing. Now more than ever we need some bold and courageous leadership – some integrity and compassion, some vision and a sense of public service – let’s not keep chopping the heads off the tall poppies that show a way for others to learn and grow.

Who will be our role models if we continue to do so?

5 replies on “Courage”

  • Dear Karen

    Thank you for summing up my feelings re Mark and the courage and dignity which he has shown in both his blog and resignation letter.

    Philippa Hunt
  • interesting read. I agree that snuggling up to the anesthetising security of power irrespective of how out of step that power may be, is something I could and would never do.

    I don’t think we serve our NHS, our patients and our staff well if we comply with the denial, marginalisation and victimisation of those who raise abhorrent behaviour and practices. Especially when those experiences have been raised in private and within policy several months earlier.

    It saddened me to attend the HSJ BME pioneer awards to hear people speak of the blog I wrote and to recount their similar experiences of the Leadership Development courses (Elizabeth GA and Bevan).

    I asked have you reported it, ‘yes’ was the reply to two seniors, so has anything changed ‘no’ was the response. So why haven’t you done anything I asked. Thinking to myself surely that’s what leadership is, not allowing experiences to be denied or marginalised. I wouldn’t and couldn’t sit quiet if I was on the board of Midstaffs for example so why comply when you receive training and the behaviours of your colleagues and fellow students appear to be abhorrent? How will you behave if you ever get on a Trust board? Do you know where your line in the sand is? Or if the wind blows hard enough that little line moves ones grain at a time to a new level of compliance?

    Sadly there are many trying not only to capture the limelight and the false accolades of success, but there are those who don’t raise the ‘flag’ because this is their first sniff off the officers table and they won’t go public with what they have seen and heard for the fear of being thrown back out into the cold.

    That makes be sad, as I’m sure it will you too Karen. After our brief chat at the HSJ LGBT role model awards I had hoped that others may now be experiencing improvement. All I can say is that appears not to be the case.

    I’m not going to blog about it because well I don’t know what they experienced as that’s their experience I only know what was getting discussed in that room and in many BME staff networks across the country.

    May we all stand tall as one NHS family strong and proud and if they are thrown out into the cold in the process then, know there will always be a few brave ones willing to speak out. Until we can remove the need within the culture to be brave and where honesty is simply enough. Until then brave and bold it is.

  • Thanks for responding Scott. I know you continue to be concerned by what you experience of our work. There are other forums to address this and I know we continue to do so. This note wasn’t about me or you, but about someone who I think has brought to life another very important truth in what we experience in the NHS. It was a prompt for thought and reflection.

    Karen lynas Contributor
  • I think having open and honest dialogue rather than subtexts within blogs is a more positive way forward surely? At least in the absence of an alternative. However it’s easy to suggest its my concern when it’s becoming clearer its a growing and non isolated concern within the courses and academy.

    Bravery in the face of challenge is one well worth reflecting upon, some of us have to do that everyday.

    With warm wishes


  • […] Here Karen Lynas of the NHS Leadership Academy blogs about courage and talks about why we must not chop the heads off tall poppies .  […]

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