Leadership


Because it's compulsory

As I sit down on a Bank Holiday Monday evening it is hard to write a post specifically about local government without referencing the weekend’s events. Somehow a local government blog post about job applications, anonymity or Section 106 (S106) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 just doesn’t seem appropriate in amongst the other major news.

So, what to say?

First, we had the royal wedding. It was strange; we celebrated the marriage of two people we barely knew and watched the whole thing on TV for countless hours. Despite this adulation the celebration was essentially superficial. For all the cheering on the Mall and the parties on streets up and down the country my feeling is that if we didn’t hear from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for the next three months no-one would particularly care.

Likewise, if the Duke and Duchess tried to call us to action it is unlikely we’d follow.

The leadership is of a symbolic kind and not necessarily that meaningful in the greater scheme of things. To apply it to local government, the leadership is similar to that of the elected councillors who are happy to be a councillor but have no real vision for what they want to achieve.

They are happy to go along and open fetes, toss currant buns into the crowd and generally act as positive role models and civic leaders. People like them but whether they are there or not makes little difference to the general direction of public policy, local services or the council. When they leave, unless they are replaced by a radical alternative, nobody really notices the difference.

And then on Monday morning we woke up to the news that Osama Bin Laden was no more. His was obviously a different kind of leadership; inspirational as much as it was delusional and insane.

As the talking heads digested the news and tried to make sense of it all questions started to be asked about the effect Bin Laden’s death would have on Al Qaeda. Could the organisation survive the loss of its leader? Would others with less skill or charisma be able to just follow the same line and still lead the disparate group?

Obviously, any comparisons to local government would be tangential at best but as I reflected on the talk about leadership it reminded me that vision is not enough to inspire and bring change, and nor is charisma. The politician or the chief executive may have the great ideas but if they can’t drive them through they won’t leave a mark and will probably fail.

Likewise, the politician can be a great leader and be incredibly electable but if they have no vision to inspire people then whatever they try and build will be as fickle as their own survival.

What a weekend it was.

Now, back to work!

Welovelocalgovernment is written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

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2 Comments on “Leadership”

  1. Performance Officer Says:

    Aren’t the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge more similar to (non-elected) Mayors? Fun, good for civic events, a certain amount of pageantry, the odd initiative/project that matters or changes something (usually very specific and small), but basically unmemorable and endlessly interchangeable?

  2. Ed Hammond Says:

    Don’t knock ceremonial Mayors. My Grandma was a Mayor’s Consort (her cousin, a widower cllr, was the Mayor at the time). She had a whale of a time.

    The leadership argument is what is behind the push towards directly elected police commissioners and directly elected mayors. It’s compelling as far as it goes but as well as vision and drive such leaders also need the ability to compromise and negotiate. Too many “leaders”, unfortunately, view that kind of approach as a kind of weakness and are on more comfortable ground ruling by diktat.


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