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The challenges of leading in unprecedented times. A conversation with David Sloman, COO of NHS England. EP #9

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“Your job is to find the riot and go and stand in the middle of it; that’s kind of what you’ve got to do. You can’t hide from it! “

In this episode of The Leadership Sessions, Tom Van Dyck, Senior Partner at TPC Leadership, and David Sloman, COO of NHS England explore the challenges of leading in unprecedented times, addressing the elephant in the room as a means of enabling teams, and the importance of providing teams with the environment and context to be able to find and implement solutions.

On the concept of power:

• “I learned early in my career, why we are having to do this is because we happen to be here at the time…”
• “You have to accept the responsibilities and the accountabilities that come with that role, you have to step up. And at what level? You don’t want to think about it too much, because you’re there…”

On the quality traits of excellent leadership:

• “Firstly, is to be absolutely relentlessly patient and citizen focused. Second thing is to be eternally optimistic, you cannot undervalue optimism as a leadership quality. And the third thing is to make decisions and do difficult things.”

• “…and total diversity of skills, voice, opinions, thoughts, because if the values are aligned, everybody will listen to what everybody else has got to say, because they think it’s coming from a good place”

On driving engagement:

• “and of course, clear, effective communication is one of the most important things you need to have in place, if you are to get anybody to do anything”
• “And often some of the things we have to do is just clear the clutter out of the way that stops them from doing that. And let’s be honest, I am often part of the clutter!”

On the future of work:

• “So work is really important. It is going to organize itself differently, and people will engage with it differently. But I think it will always be fundamental to an individual’s ability to self-actualize”

On practical matters of leadership:

• “I’ve always got three people I can ring up and cry my eyes out to or say, frankly, I haven’t got a clue what to do”
• “You can’t pretend to be something you’re not, people see through it immediately”
• “if there’s an elephant in the room, you put it in the middle of the table and start talking about it…, because everybody knows it’s sitting there”
• “I’ve never told somebody intelligent in the workplace, anything they didn’t already know”
• “…your job is to find out where the riot is, and go and stand in the middle of it. That’s kind of what you got to do. You can’t hide from it”

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