The Leadership Qualities used in the NHS

The NHS (National Health Service) is the biggest employer in the UK. What qualities does it look for in its leaders?

It defines fifteen qualities, sorted into three sections:

  • Personal qualities.
  • Setting direction.
  • Delivering the service.

The second two of these really list a set of competences - a combination of applied skills put into action - rather than qualities. Is the first list that we want. This describes five personal qualities, or characteristics, expected of NHS leaders.

  • Self belief - a "can do" approach, standing up for what they believe in, determination, sense of confidence, requires success and learning over time, .
  • Self awareness - recognising ones own strengths and limitations, learning from failure, understanding the impact they have on others.
  • Self management - regulating their own behaviour, tenacious, resilient, coping with a complex environment.
  • Drive for improvement - wanting to make a real difference to people's health, a focus on goals to achieve improvements, investing energy to do so.
  • Personal integrity - working in a way consistent with public service values, acting as a role model.

These values are consistent with David Hakala's Top Ten, but are defined in the context of a complex public sector organisation. Hakala's are "context-free", and perhaps even universal!

See the Leadership Qualities Framework on

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