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Ten minutes with Professor Gillian Leng, Chief Executive, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
  1. Michael Toolan,
  2. Roshni Maisuria
  1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michael Toolan, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, London, UK; mtoolan{at}

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Gillian Leng is the Chief Executive of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). As a junior doctor she was struck by variations in clinical practice and this developed into a passion for using evidence to improve care. Her career has spanned research, evidence synthesis, management and healthcare.

Her aim is to transform the organisation with new methods and processes to put NICE at the forefront of evaluating new medicines, devices and diagnostics and deliver dynamic, living guidelines.

She trained in medicine at Leeds, worked on clinical trials and epidemiological research in Edinburgh and was a public health consultant in London. She was an editor of the Cochrane Collaboration and is now chair of the Guidelines International Network.

First and foremost, are there any key leadership messages you want to get out to our readership?

The most important thing to remember is that, in different ways, we are all leaders. Do not assume that the leader is only the person at the top of the organisation—we may all lead teams, projects or acute emergencies that need leadership skills.

However, in the current climate leadership is particularly challenging. We are facing a range of new, unprecedented issues that no one would have imagined in 2019. Leaders need to show empathy and understand the problems their staff are facing; they need to be flexible and sometimes take some tough decisions.

There is a great quote from Rosalynn Carter, First Lady of the USA (1977–1981): ‘A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they …

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  • Author note Date of interview: 30th October 2020

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.