System leadership matters

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The transformational agenda is a challenge for all of us who work in the health sector.

Developing a comprehensive system leadership approach, working together in partnership and integrating our services for the good of the many, can make all the difference.

There are some great examples out there already that we can learn from but, in my experience, system leadership is not yet widespread enough and all the evidence points to this style not yet being the predominant leadership culture in the sector.

Being a system leader requires many skills, from flexibility to diplomacy, to ensure we continue to provide the services patients and health users demand. Some of these skills will come more naturally to us than others.

Over the past week I have been talking to colleagues in other public sector bodies with health remits to gauge current thinking on system leadership.My conclusion is we need to collectively spend a bit more quality time considering and debating the challenges it presents to clearly establish what it will mean in practice from the system’s perspective.

I do not underestimate the challenges ahead. It is our natural instinct to look within and protect our own areas of work first before thinking about the greater whole.But if we are to succeed in the future more managers than at present will need to embrace system leadership – something that may on occasion require a degree of self-sacrifice.

The NHS Leadership Academy is making its own contribution to the challenges ahead through its Leading Through Transition programme. This programme, taking place in three modules between October 2012 and March 2013, is for Directors with responsibility for Adult Social Services, Children’s Services and Public Health. As public health responsibility moves to local government, the programme will support the development of a shared leadership approach enabling participants to face and tackle challenges together.

For more information contact transition@frontlinemc.com