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Success of new NHS architecture hinges on its leaders learning new skills, says Macmillan CEO 

The new NHS architecture will not work unless its leaders use learning from outside the NHS to develop the right skills, says Macmillan Cancer Support chief executive Ciaran Devane in the first of the NHS Confederation's new series on leadership.
Ciaran Devane 

Drawing on his own experiences of working in a matrix system, Mr Devane's paper, Leadership in a matrix, calls on NHS leaders to build a different set of core skills, covering conflict resolution and multi-party negotiation. At a time when the need for exemplary leadership in the NHS is greater than ever, these skills, he argues, will equip leaders to lead through influence.

Discussing the importance of leaders being able to operate across the breadth of the new system, he asserts that the future success of the NHS will be heavily reliant on the abilities of its leaders to build trust.

Learning from others

Writing in his accompanying NHS Voices blog post, Mr Devane highlights two major learning points for NHS leaders, based on the experiences of organisations outside of the health sector in which matrix organisations and coalitions play a major role.

He said: "Organisations that work in a multi-dimensional environment actively invest in the process of alignment and conflict-resolution. To benefit from creativity and flexibility, these environments must be managed. It will not happen on its own. 

"The second lesson is that process is not enough. Skill is required. And like in the rest of life, we can decide that we hope managers and leaders will intuitively know the right thing to do, or we can invest in the development of their skills and capabilities."

Using evidence and interviews from top executives at GlaxoSmithKline and the Monitor Company, and the reflections of a former audit partner, Leadership in a matrix develops ten learning points to help the NHS as it moves into a new architecture.

Leadership in the new NHS

The paper is the first in a new series which will explore in detail the needs of future healthcare leaders in the new system.

As part of the series, the NHS Confederation has sought respected and influential leaders from the NHS, public sector, voluntary and private sectors to share their personal insights into leadership throughout the run up to the NHS Confederation annual conference and exhibition 2013.

The series aims to stimulate discussion about the importance of leaders being able to adapt to working in the new system by building trust, leading through influence and acting courageously. We will also discuss what steps will need to be taken to ensure these skills are developed for the future.

Find out more

Read Ciaran's NHS Voices blog post.

Download Mr Devane's paper Leadership in a matrix.

Find out more about our work on leadership.

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Matthew Macnair-Smith

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