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The Rise of the Professional Manager

Centre for Professional Service Firms - Third Discussion Forum

Monday, 12 July, 2010

The Third Discussion Forum organised by the Cass Centre for Professional Service Firms recently drew together a distinguished panel of senior executives from Allen and Overy, Credit Suisse, and the National Health Service to debate the question: What makes an effective manager in an organisation of professionals?

The panellists, below, were joined by 110 professionals, academics, and MBA students:

o Ruth Carnall, CBE, Chief Executive, NHS London
o Christopher Horne, Global Chief Operating Officer, Investment Banking Division, Credit Suisse
o David Morley, Worldwide Senior Partner, Allen and Overy

Professor Laura Empson, Director of the Centre, opened the discussion by defining the professional manager a person occupying a senior functional role within a professional service firm - and how they integrate into the Leadership Constellation' model at the heart of her current ESRC-funded research project.

The panel discussion was detailed and wide-ranging and at times very personal and revealing.  Two key themes emerged: professional managers need to manage their own political capital carefully (spending time creating and sustaining relationships within the organization) and the need to be willing to subjugate their own ego.

That is not to say that successful managers of professionals need to be without ego, but it must not need constant validation, according to Ruth Carnall, CBE: "You need resilience, so that people feel safe with you, and you need an ability to absorb uncertainty, risk, and ambiguity for yourself, and try to provide some context."

As Professor Empson observed, the people who thrive in these roles are those who understand that the best way to persuade a professional to agree to your proposal is to convince them it was their idea in the first place.

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David Morley, Worldwide Senior Partner, Allen & Overy, and Professor Laura Empson

Ruth Carnall, CBE, Chief Executive, NHS London, and Christopher Horne, Global Chief Operating Officer, Investment Banking Division, Credit Suisse

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