Liam Farrell: Everyone's somebody, no-one's anybody

'We have universities,' says the Wizard of Oz to the Scarecrow, 'where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts, and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven't got; membership of the RCGP ...'

At which point, Dorothy blows a raspberry and the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man snigger.

(Only joking, I added that last bit myself, what the Wizard actually said was 'a diploma'.)

But there is a body, the NHS Leadership Academy (NLA), whose modest aim is 'to be a centre of excellence and beacon of best practice on leadership development, then invade Russia and achieve world domination'. (Only joking, I added that last bit myself.)

I've never been asked to apply to the NLA, presumably because you can't lead when you are too busy, you know, looking after patients and all.

Leadership has always been an intangible; we think of great leaders like Caesar, Attila, Washington, Gandhi, Mandela, Tony Blair - their charisma, their vision, their dynamism, their doubtful fashion sense. Yet as the philosopher Lao Tzu said: 'A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.'

Thanks to the NLA, leaders are now much more easily identified; they have a diploma. But there is a problem - the more successful the NLA is, the more people who obtain the diploma and become leaders, the less street cred it has. It will be all chiefs and no Indians, and as Gilbert and Sullivan wrote: 'When everyone is somebody, no-one's anybody.'

To be fair to the clever people in the NLA, they've already thought of that. They not only provide a 'foundation leadership programme' for the plebs, but also an 'executive/senior leadership programme' which makes a clear distinction between important leaders and ordinary leaders.

The executive leaders can sit in first class, while the ordinary leaders sweat it in the cheap seats.

Or actually, you know, see patients and all.

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

NHS sign outside a building

PCN contract overhaul defers two-week appointment target until April 2023

NHS England has announced changes to the network contract DES, including deferring...


NHS sets out priorities for extra GP funding this winter

Integrated care boards could target extra funding for general practice at phone systems,...

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves

Labour promises to double medical school places with tax cut reversal

A Labour government would double medical school places with funding raised from reversing...

What is GP Connect?

GP Connect articles are provided and funded by a selection of GPonline's partners...

Gas meter

BMA and local NHS leaders scramble to support GPs facing rising costs

Spiralling energy costs have forced local NHS leaders to draw up emergency support...

Health and social care secretary and deputy prime minister Therese Coffey

What does the government's 'plan for patients' mean for general practice?

Health and social care secretary Therese Coffey has unveiled the government's new...