Who has most inspired you in your career?
Observing human ingenuity and courage from two very different perspectives. I remember visiting Sara Payne, the mother of the little girl murdered by a paedophile, who was involved with a campaign allied to the News of the World. I have reservations about the aims of that campaign, but few people have impressed me more. She had been thrown into the limelight in the worst
possible circumstances but her dignity and eloquence were powerful and demonstrated the hidden inner resources many people possess. At the other extreme in terms of power and wealth, to watch Bill Clinton speak at the Labour Party conference was to watch a master at work.
How would you like your professional contribution to be remembered?
I am tempted to say that Florence Nightingale’s dictum that you should do no harm (which she applied to hospitals) would be a start. As far as the King’s Fund is concerned I am a custodian of the endowment which I must pass on in as good a state as I can when I leave. False modesty aside, if the ideas, services and people that the fund develops go on to produce better health and social care then my contribution will have been worthwhile.
What has been your worst mistake?
As social affairs editor at the BBC, I agreed to appear on the Ten O’clock News live in Birmingham without a producer or security and was mobbed on air by an exuberant group of Muslim youths who had unexpectedly emerged from a nearby mosque. It was a salutary lesson for anyone with a tendency to be over-confident.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I prefer others to describe it. I aim to be open and straightforward, willing to consult and have dialogue with colleagues but I also have a clear idea of where I want to go.
How do you get your own way?
I argue my case like everyone else and accept that I cannot always get my own way. Heading an organisation is about setting a vision and being clear about the big things that matter.
What’s the single biggest danger facing social care?
Lack of ambition and lack of recognition: the potential remains huge and largely unfulfilled. Part of this stems from the failure of us all to see its value in helping restore and maintain as much independence as each individual is able to achieve while ensuring that dependence never undermines respect and dignity.