If anyone is wondering what happened to Natalie Ceeney following her unexpected departure as chief executive of HM Courts & Tribunals Service in May, Obiter has found a clue.
According to an update on her LinkedIn profile, the high-flying former management consultant, NHS boss and head of the National Archives is ‘currently taking time to research and write before taking on her next challenge’.
The update is posted next to an example of Ceeney’s writing, a cautionary tale for senior managers everywhere. It examines the phenomenon of the charismatic chief executive who invariably turns up at the centre of every corporate or public policy scandal. As she puts it: ‘A common theme is that the leader became more and more dominant as time went on, increasingly shutting out and culling dissenting voices.’
You know the type: ‘The bubble of power, the lure of praise, creates leaders who start believing their own hype (such as Ricky Gervais’s David Brent, pictured). They take more and more risks, convinced of the rightness of their position, and reinforced by the “yes boss” voices around them. The leaders who started well can turn into monsters.’
She admits falling into the trap herself earlier in her career. ‘I was six months into my first CEO role before I realised that I was getting far too little challenge, and too much “yes boss” in response.’
Her advice is: ‘We need to listen to our critics and make it safe for them to speak.’
The post is entitled ‘don’t believe your own hype’. Obiter hopes it is circulating widely in the Ministry of Justice.