Is Your Leadership Team Playing Pass The Parcel?

As someone who worked at Board level in the NHS, I know that it is a tough and challenging environment to work in.

Over the last 5 years with real pressures on government spending it has got even tougher.

Of course the true test of leadership comes when faced with really difficult situations.  We all know that the NHS does a great job in time of crisis.  Just look at how it deals with major incidents.

But what about navigating the organisation through those situations where there is insufficient money to deliver everything that everyone would like.

In those situations there are some options:

Do Nothing

In this situation the tenure of the leadership team is likely to be limited.

Do The Easy Stuff

Sensible and great for the short term but not likely to work medium to long term.

Deflect The Problem

This is where people look for someone else to blame.  If it’s a gap in the finances, then of course it’s Finance’s problem- right?

Of course Finance needs to make sure that it is being as efficient and cost effective as it can be.

On the other hand Finance and other Corporate Functions are only likely to be incurring a small percentage of the total spend.

The bulk of the expenditure is likely to be in frontline services.

Pass The Problem Around

Moving the problem or issue around an organisation or a health economy is never the answer.  It just avoids the issue for right now.

Why Don’t Leadership Teams Show Leadership?

One would think that if you have taken on the responsibility for delivering results, you would grab the bull by the horns.  Sadly there is often a gap between what could and does happen.

Lack of Know How

One of the great things about the NHS is that the people who work in it really know the business.

The flipside is that people don’t necessarily have the benefit of other organisations that they can use as a base of ideas and learning.


If you try something it might not work.  On the other hand if you do nothing then you know that nothing will happen.

When in a leadership role you know the stakes are high and it is easy to let fear get in the way of action.

Self Preservation

Ultimately what is or isn’t achieved is a team effort.  Sadly people forget this at times and become more interested in protecting their position or reputation than delivering results.

So how about your leadership team?  Are they passing the parcel or taking action to move things forward?  Use this checklist to do a quick self assessment.

As a leadership team we have consensus about what we have to deliver?

We have a clear strategy that has been agreed by everyone on the leadership team?

The strategy is supported by implementation plans and milestones?

Everyone on the leadership team is accountable for what they have agreed to deliver individually and collectively?

When we are off course against plans we collectively take responsibility for taking action to get back on track?

When we don’t know how to tackle something, we seek out best practice from others rather than just avoiding the issue?

Goals and Achievements help health professionals to become better leaders.