Dame Julie Moore and Arsene Wenger gone in the same week.

Both of these icons will have their fans and detractors.  Anyone who has tangled with The Dame will have a view.  Any football fan, who likes winning will have an opinion on Inspector Clouseau. Whatever… they’ll leave a hole, fans and a confused team.

As far as I can see, neither of these two great institutions, the FC nor the FT, know what’s next.  No succession planning.  Big mistake.

The evidence is overwhelming… stability in leadership works.  

How many good leaders have we lost to the petulance of the CQC, or the impatience of Monitor.  Stupid regulators who don’t realise the failures are to do with the system, not the people.

Ask for a list of leadership qualities and you get pages but I know, from the experiences of recruiting and watching Frimley Pk’s, Sir Andrew Morris, mature into one of the NHS’ great pillars of strength and leadership, how important is the role of time and patience, encouragement and freedom.

Stable leaders bring a steadying influence on others in their organisation.  They can’t do it if they are hounded because the inevitable is; they will hound others.  Erratic and inconsistent leaders are a curse.  

Values that people can understand, personal example, time to think and create space for others to do well, a safety net that allows for mistakes and failure in pursuit of doing better.  All of that is lost when a long-service leader goes.

The irritating point; we know people will not be in a post forever and the sensible thing to do is to accept and understand that.  The obvious job for Chairman and Boards… prepare.  Succession planning.

All the gains of Moore and Wenger are in peril of being lost to the vagaries of headhunters and the luck of ‘who wants a job right now’.  Madness.  

Boards are supposed to be in the business of strategy, not serendipity. 

The NHS struggles to find leaders.  I seem to recall 20% of senior and Board posts are held by interims and the average tenure of an NHS chief executive was something like 19 months?

Talent management is key. The responsibility for developing future leaders needs to be taken seriously. 

The very best leaders will see it’s their job to create talent, not just for their organisations but the wider NHS and certainly not to make replacing a leader a lottery.

The FC and the FT should have made the announcement that their gifted leaders are retiring and announced their replacement… 

..not leave it to individuals to shock their people with a Tweet that ricochets through the insecurity, involvement and wellbeing of staff.

Research by Ballantine et al 2008, tells us there is a strong association between poor Trust performance and changes to the CEO role.  And, McKee and others, 2010;  changes… at executive level can contribute to staff feeling less secure and it can be a risk factor in ensuring quality of care and staff engagement.  

The FT could steal someone else’s boss, gamble on a replacement the headhunters dig out, or they might be brave and recover with a fresh start; let the staff ballot on who the new leader should be.  

The people working at the Trust will know where the organisation’s talent is.  They will know who they want to follow.  Show the staff you trust them enough to chose their own leader.

Do something different?

Let’s hope DiDo, at NHSI, does something different.  She’s waving goodbye to most of her time-expired Board, including Lord Carter, Lord Darzi, Sarah Harkness and is headhunting.  She’ll never replace that talent.


Clear out NHSE Board at the same time.  Appoint the best of the two board’s NEDs to both boards.  NEDs can be on more than one Board.

Leave the key executives, CEO and FD in place, rationalise the rest.

Appoint DiDo chair of NHSE as well as NHSI…. Malcom Grant, the present chair, is on his way out… they looking, but stuck for a replacement.

The idea sails close to the wind, but leave the accountable officers in place and I can’t see anything in the rules to prevent it?  No new laws needed.

If we really are taking about integration… let’s see it.

These important departures create the opportunity for a fresh start… if we are brave.


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Reproduced at by kind permission of Roy Lilley.