Posted tagged ‘leadership’

Manage to lead

March 26, 2012

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Peter Drucker

And with this simple quote, shown up is one of the fundamental flaws in the way we value the people who work in local government.

Having been through restructures in the past, I am well versed in the intricacies of the average process.  The team or service undergoing the changes invariably ends up reviewing their structure charts, placing new teams together and rearranging workloads before or after assigning a manager for them to work with or to lead on their projects and keep things moving in the right direction.  Those higher up this chain get paid more, those lower down get paid less.

But why is this?  Why do those who sign off the leave cards for others, and who record progress via 1:1 meetings get paid more than those who actually do the work, those who make the contacts and those who lead the agenda and projects to where they need to be?

There seems to be an underlying assumption often made that leadership and management is intrinsically linked and that you can’t successfully do one without doing the other at the same time.  On many job descriptions for managers at whatever grade is the ability to lead and motivate others; how many of us are truly inspired by those immediately above us?  If you are one of thee then you are in a privileged position, as many simply are not.

However, many of us do find this inspiration from other colleagues we work with.  Some of these will be more senior than us, some more junior and some our peers.  I for one have been lucky enough to have had one or two inspirational managers, have been enthused by more junior staff and worked alongside some who have pushed me to be better than I  thought I could be before.

I’m sure I’m not unique in having known many of the exact opposite, those who’s jobs may or may not have been to inspire me but who didn’t for whatever reason.  Some of these have been superb managers, who have provided exactly what I needed when I needed it and allowed me to lead myself in my own direction. I didn’t hold this against them, in fact for me this was equally as important a stage in my professional development. (more…)

Accountability and #localgov leadership

December 1, 2011

Playing the blame game?

After a busy few days inside and outside of WLLG Towers we thought it would be a perfect time to share a thought provoking guest post from Jessica Crowe (@CfPScrutiny) of Centre for Public Scrutiny fame.  The past few weeks has shown us the importance of both leadership across the public sector and the importance of accountability, so Jessica’s post is both timely and interesting.  If you’ve got a subject you’d like to write about you can send it to us at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com or tweet us about it @welovelocalgov, otherwise get yourself a cuppa and scroll down for more.

Three things last week made me think yet again how we need a better understanding of what accountability means for leaders in local government these days. Firstly I attended an excellent lecture given by Sir Michael Lyons (remember the Lyons report…?) to mark the 45th anniversary of the Institute of Local Government Studies (@INLOGOV) at the University of Birmingham. This was followed by the distinguished panel of Baroness Onora O’Neill, Catherine Staite, the new Director of INLOGOV, and Derek Myers (@ChairSolace), Chief Executive of Kensington and Chelsea. Sir Michael’s lecture set out what ought to constitute ‘fit for purpose’ leadership in public services for the future.

The following night, with my nerd hat firmly on, I took part in a roundtable hosted by accountants Grant Thornton to discuss their new research analysing what council accounts and Annual Governance Statements tell us about the state of corporate governance in local government. And in between these two thoughtful events I read a ridiculously simplistic rant in the MJ from a former local government public relations officer, arguing that the bean-counters of the “accountability industry” should back off and just let the professionals get on with delivering services.

The INLOGOV evening came up with some elegant lists of three as maxims for better public service leadership (“do less; do it well; do it together” from Sir Michael; “honesty, competence and reliability” – Onora O’Neill; “aggregate where you can; localise where you should; innovate everywhere” – Derek Myers). In emulation, here are three conclusions drawn from these three experiences: a plea for more understanding of what public accountability is and why it is both helpful to and a special responsibility of leaders in local government. (more…)

Who needs a Chief Executive anyway?

November 14, 2011

By the sea

Here at WLLG towers we are a big fan of local news and so it was with interest when a FOB (friend of the blog) sent us this story from the seaside town of Hastings:

COUNCIL leader Jeremy Birch has been slammed for his management shake-up plan which axes the chief executive and appears to give him more power.

Under the proposal, jointly written with deputy council leader Jay Kramer and published this week, the senior management team at Hastings Borough Council (HBC) will be cut from 15 officers to 10 with a team of three directors taking over the chief executive role.

The story has three very interesting points within it:

1)    Despite the opposition parties claiming that the abolition of the Chief Executive would lead to more responsibility for the leader of the council, this was rejected by the leader himself who claimed that:

There would be little change from current practices

This is a curious position to take. Five of the top fifteen managers in the organisation are going and the leader of the council reckons it will make no difference to his role or the role of his senior staff. Indeed, the top management team is being reduced from four to three with abolition of the Chief Executive.

Does the leader of the council believe that the Chief Executive was doing no work? Does he believe that there is capacity within the top team to take on extra work?

(more…)

Whither Local Government?

August 11, 2011

A friendly disagreement

Simon Jenkins is a well known fan of elected mayors and of devolving more power to local areas. It is therefore not particularly surprising that his response to the recent riots was as follows:

In this crisis, our cities need local leaders with real power. The vacuum of authority below our centralised state leaves the police with the impossible task of keeping order alone

Jenkins’s argument is that the over centralised state has left local government enfeebled and thus totally reliant on leadership from central Government. In his most provactive paragraph Jenkins argues:

At a time of crisis the TV stage is taken by a police officer and central government minister. Councils are run by enfeebled party machines and their “leaders” are politicians whose means of selection and election gives first loyalty to party rather than community. They feel no obligation to public leadership. Suggest to a council leader that he stand for direct election without the carapace of party, and he shudders at the thought. These figureheads are mere agents, factotums, of central government.

Normally, I would be in agreement with Jenkins’ argument. I too believe that local government needs to have more powers, take a greater role in the local community and generally be more independent from central Government.

However, I think Mr Jenkins may have gone too far.

Local Government has, in my mind, actually performed well in this crisis. Ask around local authorities and you will hear plenty of stories of Borough commanders liaising with the leader (or locally elected mayor) of their council. Both groups recognise that we can’t address these problems in isolation and been quick to work together.

(more…)

Leadership

May 3, 2011

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.

(more…)