Leadership at all levels

Leading public-sector organisations in an age of austerity

Leadership at all levels

One of the main challenges for the UK public sector is to deliver improved services through a motivated workforce in an age of austerity. Arguably, this does not require the recruitment or development of more leaders – it is about exercising more leadership at all levels. Senior leaders will need to demonstrate leadership in the following four ways:

  • Developing the insights necessary for successful change within complex systems
  • Building the cognitive skills to manage effectively in demanding environments
  • Demonstrating the emotional intelligence to motivate their people
  • Building leadership at all levels of the organisation by developing capability and ensuring that overly complex structures do not impede the ability of the individuals across the organisation to exercise leadership.

The leadership challenge

Public-sector organisations have benefited from huge injection of funding in recent years, yet with budgets being radically reduced while citizen expectations continue to rise, public-sector leaders will be challenged to demonstrate a set of skills and insights that will be unfamiliar to the current leadership of most central departmental public bodies (NDPBs).

This is the central challenge for permanent secretaries, chief executives and their management teams: what mix of approaches is needed to deliver more with less? These tasks must be defined and led by executive team, as follows:

  • Reshaping organisations, rather than making uniform cuts within the existing structure
  • Delivering sustainable cost reduction
  • Building leadership at all levels.

Strengths, myths and emerging realities

UK public services demonstrate enduring strengths in quality, motivation and independence – although the quality of delivery in major policy areas remains mixed. A number of pervasive myths can impede effective delivery and hinder effective leadership at all levels.

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