Reviews the role of clinical directors from outside the usual managerial framework to challenge the managerial myth applied to professionals who take on these roles. Defines management, managing, managerialism and leadership and develops an empirical framework to compare the roles of doctors and managers. Uses the framework to identify the cognitive map that clinical directors use and how they perceive their role. An emergent model illustrates how clinical directors combine a new cognitive map with their existing professional behaviours to undertake their role. Clinical directors both perceived and described their role in terms of leadership rather than management reinforcing the inappropriateness of using managerial frameworks. Instead clinical directors should be developed and evaluated as professional leaders. This raises wider questions of whether management and the language of management are either useful or appropriate for professionals in the NHS or whether their value is really a myth.
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