29 March 2023

Reflections on Kings Fund Workforce Summit- Leadership and Workforce in a Changing Environment

In addition to the business as usual activities supporting our clients in Health and Social care – last week, I attended the King’s Fund Leadership and Workforce Summit. I was inspired by several of the sessions and enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and friends. The theme was developing compassionate and inclusive leadership cultures through a period of change. This  is a real challenge in the health and social care sector at present. We heard from inspirational leaders who have already started this journey in their organisation. From their insights, it was clear that to be successful there needs to be a clear purpose and vision from the top and a solid commitment to the development of a compassionate and inclusive approach to leadership.

Question: What do we need to learn and unlearn to work collaboratively?
We need to build trust and relationships within the health economy and with our partners in social care. The Patrick Lencioni model “The advantage of Organisational Health trumps everything in business” comes to mind, as it suggests “build the trust, manage the conflict, build commitment, have accountability, to deliver results.”

Question: Is there still a place for command and control?
Research evidence and the recent NHS staff survey would suggest that the “last century style of leadership” is not landing for staff in the NHS. They want clarity, empowerment and a voice in this journey of transformation. Compassionate and inclusive leadership is about empowering all our leaders, managers, clinicians and staff to have a voice in the workplace regardless of grade or profession.

Question: What we do with the leaders who do not engage in this cultural shift?
Many of the current leaders on boards and executive teams have been successful in their roles as directive leaders, using command and control approaches in their organisations to move into senior positions. This approach worked well and has been rewarded in the competitive market of the last 20 years. As we move to system leadership through Integrated Care Boards the changes in leadership culture required to be effective, may be step too far for some of our traditional leaders. We need to support those that do want to change by; articulating the compassionate and inclusive leadership model, providing leadership training, supporting leaders, offering 360 feedback, coaching and role modelling desired behaviours in our everyday interactions. Equally we need to hold our leaders to account when they don’t meet the standards required – a culture of consequences is important. The principles of attending, understanding, empathising, and helping are not only good leadership principles, but they are also a good way to approach life. (Michael A West- compassionate leadership).

We heard throughout the day about the recruitment and retention challenges in the workforce which included: pay and reward, recognition, workforce planning, culture, leadership and the recent staff survey results in NHS. We heard many speakers discuss these issues and share their best practice and successes. The soon to be published NHS clinical workforce plan was also mentioned. We await this with trepidation and the hope this will be fully funded by the government.

I was inspired by the day and have great hope that we can make the transformation through our people. This requires our leaders to make a significant change in tone and style of leadership. The compassionate and inclusive leadership model has been around for some years now, as a sector we need to ensure all our leaders engage in this approach, we need to practice what we preach as leaders in our everyday interactions with our staff and partners. We look forward to supporting our colleagues in health and social care on this journey of transformation going forward.


  • Patrick Lencioni- The advantage- why organisational health trumps everything in business
  • Michael A. West- Compassionate- sustaining wisdom, humanity and presence in health and social care
  • NHS staff survey , 2022.