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A letter from Sussex Place, March 2012

Ian Currie, Honorary Secretary, writes:

What are the key qualities that make an effective manager? And how do these qualities differ from those required by a leader within obstetrics and gynaecology?

One of the key RCOG strategic goals is to enhance and develop leadership within the profession, and in order to achieve that I think we need to look at some of the fundamental differences between what it takes to become a respected manager or leader.

Each one of us at some point in our careers is exposed to aspects of management. Many of us absorb management skills through our lives - almost by osmosis - but others find it difficult to develop this role, avoiding areas of work that would take them away from the comfort zone of their day-to-day clinical duties: after all, we initially chose medicine as a vocation, with a desire to treat patients and not to embark on a career in management.

However, trainees are constantly reminded by experienced consultants about an ever-increasing burden of management encroaching into their job plans. Every area of clinical activity seems to bring with it a multitude of responsibilities that require us to organise teams and allocate resources while still being productive and efficient at the same time. Surely then, it is important to embrace this area of medicine that is alien to most of us and incorporate more of the core skills into our continuing professional development?

Many of us are frustrated when dealing directly with hospital managers, feeling threatened with the encounter. Some may even find the experience confrontational. Being able to understand management language goes some way to breaking down those barriers that we see in so many units between management and clinicians. I would put it to you that we all need to be managers in some form and embrace this as an integral part of our jobs.

So what makes an effective leader? True leaders create vision and see the bigger picture with more of a strategic ideology. Leaders are usually charismatic and inspirational but this does not mean that only the extrovert is a born leader. True leadership is much more than that and goes much further than just managing individuals. At the very heart of leadership is an ability to empower staff and to align the organisation to their 'vision'.

I would agree that the dreaded 'one-day management or leadership course' goes some way to starting development in this area, but surely we should be going much further with our knowledge base if we are going to get true fulfillment from our clinical jobs. Leadership and management should not be something we just progress to in our fifth decade. Yes, if we are an effective manager or leader, we do become even more effective with experience and time, but there are many younger consultants out there that have core managerial and leadership skills. These should be identified early in their careers and nurtured with a complimentary programme of development.

Let us all become more effective managers and inspirational leaders for the future.

Ian Currie
RCOG Honorary Secretary

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