10th July 2019 Written by Dean Royles

Image: Dean Royles.Dean Royles, a Strategic Workforce Advisor with us here at Skills for Health and President of the HPMA, has a passion for inspiring leaders to be diverse and inclusive. He believes that for leaders to be truly transformational they must possess certain qualities. His rolling blog series considers these somewhat ‘under appreciated qualities’ and how they shape effective leadership. Thus far, Dean has written about ‘Patience’, ‘Gentleness’, and ‘Curiosity’.

Read Dean’s latest blog in the series here concerning the unappreciated quality of ‘Forgiveness’.

I’ve had some great feedback on this series of articles about the unappreciated qualities of leadership, however, it made me realize that I need to point out that these articles are not in any way autobiographical! As much as I’d like to think that I have all of these qualities in abundance, I don’t unfortunately! I’m sorry. I write about them because I discern them in others, people working in the NHS that I admire and respect and this led me to thinking of another greatly unappreciated quality of leadership, that of forgiveness.

We all know people that we see as very forgiving of others and there is a strong link here with qualities of gentleness and patience that I have written about before. However, the unappreciated quality I’d like to emphasize is that of self-forgiveness.

Leaders can be extremely hard on themselves. Often because they know others will have high expectations and the weight of responsibility on delivering high quality services with limited resources can rest heavily on them. However, what is abundantly clear is that none of us are perfect. None of us are the final product, none of us have lost the ability to change. Wherever we are on our leadership journey, we are all constantly growing, constantly developing, constantly changing, and if we don’t appreciate this in ourselves and forgive ourselves for our mistakes, it will be difficult to forgive others. This isn’t a cop out. Public sector leaders should of course be held to account for their decisions and should also hold themselves to account, The Nolan Principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness and honesty set a high bar. Rightly so, we spend public money and care for some of the most vulnerable in our society. But, importantly, if we make decisions, make a judgement call or initiate a change, that turns out to be suboptimal, or occasionally wrong, as long as we had the right and positive intent, with reflection, leaders need to be able to acknowledge that it can be ok to make mistakes, that no-one is perfect.

This role modelling seems particularly important in leading others, partly as we aspire to a blame-free, just culture. It is also important when the public discourse and in particular social media seems so toxic and hostile of people that hold differing views, that we understand that tolerance isn’t about bending people’s will or views to that of our own. Rather, tolerance is about respecting each other right or wrong.

Where leaders are so often making judgement calls, where there is no right or wrong, no black or white decisions, we have to rely on our values. Hopefully we get the judgement calls right most of the time, but when we don’t, when people seem intolerant – we have to be able to forgive ourselves so we can better forgive others.


Dean always welcomes feedback. Please get in touch with him on Twitter @NHS_Dean, or email him directly: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dean Royles has been a highly regarded, leading figure in Human Resources (HR) within the NHS for nearly two decades, holding a number of notable positions including; NHS Employers Chief Executive, Director of Workforce and Education at NHS North West and Deputy Director of Workforce for the NHS in England at the Department of Health.

Dean’s easy style, expertise and high energy approach to HR ensured he was voted UK’s Most Influential HR Practitioner three years running. His book, with Oxford University Press on Human Resource Management was published in February 2018. Dean now provides strategic advice and leadership development to organisations and boards.