Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

‘Local government in Britain needs to be less passive and resist the central diktat on policy that has undermined local services and engagement. Authorities need less, rather than more guidance, and they need to be brave enough to drive fundamental change themselves.’

So says Michael Frater, Surrey CC’s interim chief executive in an essay in a new collection called, Beyond the Downturn published last week by Civica. At the moment there seem to be plenty of prophets of doom lining up to tell us about the years of misery that lie ahead for public services. So I found Michael Frater’s article helpful because he sets out some clear ideas on what local government can do to handle the difficult times ahead.

I’ve picked out six key areas he highlights in the essay:

1. Discretionary services like arts, culture, libraries and leisure are unlikely to survive in their current form and re-engineering and outsourcing of both core and discretionary services to the market is likely to happen on a scale much greater than previously imagined.

2. Councils need the power to act and raise funding locally. When difficult choices have to be made about which services to keep and which to cut, local needs and views must be the determinant, not Whitehall.

3. The government should look to reduce spending on regulation

4. Rather than continuing to fund separate governance arrangements for police, primary care, further education colleges, councils should become the commissioners of these services.

5. Councils need to turn their organisations on their heads so that the new generation of workers will want to work for local authorities because they are empowered, trusted and adaptable.

6. Councils need to recruit, harness and exploit the creativity, enthusiasm and energy of a new young generation of employees, many of whom have knowledge of the true potential that technology offers.


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Delusions of grandeur

I was struck over the weekend by an ad for the Pennsylvania University Management Program.  Beneath the statement, ‘NOW I INVENT INSTEAD OF PREDICT.  I AM A VISIONARY’ a silver-haired senior excutive sits at the shoreline of an expansive lake, gazing out to the horizon.  With his strong chin and resolute expression, the man seems poised to get up and walk across the water, bring peace to the Middle East, solve the world’s energy crisis and reform MPs expenses all before lunch.

I appreciate that if you want to attract people to your expensive management programme you need to make it sound impressive.  ‘I USED TO STEAL ALL MY BEST IDEAS FROM COLLEAGUES BUT NOW I’M A SELF-SUFFICIENT MUDDLER-THROUGHER’  clearly doesn’t have the right ring to it.

Leadership in organisations is crucial to their success but even still, most achievements come through collective efforts, nurturing talent, and at times, good luck.  I wonder how many of the senior executives at Lehmann Brothers or at Northern Rock felt that they were visionaries.  Now we know that many had only a limited understanding of the risks affecting the businesses they ran.  So perhaps one of the positives we could take from the banking crisis (and also the way in which some MPs have used the parliamentary expenses system) is to beware of hubris – more humble leadership could be a good thing.

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