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Is it lonely at the top of the NHS?

2nd February 2009

Jenny Rogers, a management consultant, writes about the trials of being at the top in the Health Service Journal.

consultant1Q

The new president of the USA has provoked a flood of positive hopes, making it simple to miss the fact that being in a senior position can be very isolating.

Director Oliver Stone has made an interesting film about Barack Obama's predecessor George W Bush, where he is shown as a lonely, ignorant character.

"You do not need to have the most challenging leadership role in the world to know what such loneliness is like. The more senior the role, the greater the risk of isolation."

In Stone's film, he offers a perfect portrayal of how staff can both respect and undermine the person sitting at the top of the pile.

People appear to have a desperate need to separate themselves from their bosses, while at the same time wanting them to approve of what they do and being afraid of their anger. "We don't really want to see the human being behind the mask. It is easier to believe the myths."

Many people ask me to help them "manage upwards" - it is not difficult. One should make the effort to "get to know your boss" and understand they make mistakes. Give them feedback and be supportive.

Could using these "tactics" have helped the Bush administration? Who knows - but it is not likely that they were ever used. It is to be hoped that the new president is supported by staff who will act differently.

 

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