The role of the chief executive in health care has never been more important. How we appoint to such posts – and help our chief executives to be successful ‘in role’ – is one of the NHS’s most important leadership issues.


The Aspiring Chief Executive programme is a collaboration between the NHS Leadership Academy, NHS Improvement and NHS Providers. It forms part of a fully resourced, strategic response to the challenge of how we identify, develop and deploy our most senior leaders. Together, these three organisations have designed and delivered a programme to prepare those with the potential to become chief executives in the next 12-24 months. As well as providing exceptional development, the programme will also assess your readiness to take up these demanding roles. Successful completion will lead to an NHS Leadership Academy Award.


The design is underpinned by wide support across the provider network and input from serving chief executives across the system. They answered two key questions: what do you wish you’d known and how do you wish you’d been prepared for your role?


The programme doesn’t just aim to develop leaders who can lead their own organisation to a high standard. It also places clear emphasis on working within a complex and increasingly integrated health economy. It will provide you with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours to play a full role in reshaping care systems to provide new, sustainable models of care based on patient need.


“A common story we hear from chief executives is that, even though they brought years of experience and talent into the role, when they started as a chief executive they were unprepared.


Our programme will support those with the talent to take up these big jobs and develop them both professionally and personally. We’ll also build in a demanding assessment process so that those completing the programme will carry an award showing they have been tested and are truly ready to lead provider trusts in the emerging world of integrated systems of care.”


Deepy Kang
Senior programme lead
NHS Leadership Academy


Participant experience:



At the end of the programme, participants will demonstrate their readiness to be an effective Chief Executive through:


  • Your enhanced ability to engage with patients, service users, carers and families of all backgrounds, enabling person-centred care in the local environment.


  • Developing your personal ability to operate and contribute effectively to system leadership. Furthermore, allowing you to build on partnerships and local system working, in the light of national trends and policy.


  • Gaining a full appreciation of the statutory and regulatory duties associated with an Accountable Officer role, it facilitates a solid understanding of the regulatory and fiscal environment, corporate governance and builds on your understanding of risk and audit.


  • Understanding the demands of a Chief Executive role, including leading the development of strategy, managing an effective executive team and the organisational culture.


  • Bringing the ability to create the right conditions for frontline staff, irrespective of their background.


  • Creating a balance between understanding individual executive portfolios and maintaining the ability to coordinate across them.


  • Developing a critical awareness of your personal approach to leadership, defining your personal style, behaviour, and attitudes further impacting your readiness for change, on your bias, blind spots and attitude to diversity.


  • Enabling you to lead with confidence and take courageous decisions. Taking actions that make the aspirations of the NHS Constitution a reality, together with a mind set and networks that enable you to enable them to lead in a transforming health and social care landscape.

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