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Solace blog

2nd December 2016

Ignite: Developing leadership fit for the future

Solace has done some fantastic work in ensuring that leadership potential is fostered and developed throughout our sector, developing a pipeline of Chief Executives for the future. However, in the rapidly changing landscape of local public service today, it’s vital that existing Chief Executives are equipped with the tools required for the realities of the job, and feel ready to face whatever new challenges the future holds. Even for those who feel at the top of their game, there is always room for challenge and for learning, particularly amongst peers.

This is why earlier this year Solace brought together the LGA, the RSA and Collaborate to launch a bespoke programme that challenges existing modes of leadership and seeks to build capability amongst existing Chief Executives.

The capabilities we need as Chief Executives are changing and evolving. Meeting the challenges ahead require us to ‘think like a system’ and ‘act like an entrepreneur’. This requires a shift in the way leadership development works – more collaborative, more nuanced, more focused on credibility.

We believe that leadership development as we know it is not necessarily going to meet the challenge. Rapid change in the operating context for local government, the evidence base for action, and even the way we understand change requires a different approach.

To test this, we have brought together a group of initially twelve Chief Executives to explore the way in which local government will operate in the future and to work together to understand the skills and relationships needed to thrive in an increasingly complex delivery landscape. Our programme asks them to commit to shaping this with us; creating an underlying blueprint for a new generation of leaders who can transform place.

The first programme which commenced with a 24 hour residential in October, intentionally aimed to mix the inspirational with the intensely practical, and was unashamedly rough at the edges and embraced contradiction.

Chief Executives who continue to participate will be part of a unique grouping that is collectively pushing the edges and shaping what future leadership development for local government should look like. We want the difference to be felt not only by participants themselves, but in the systems and process of which they are a part.

Leadership development is a crowded space, littered with programmes that focus on individuals and forget about the readiness for change that needs to be built in their organisations and systems. To carry on using this approach is to compound the silo mentality that has undermined attempts re-shape public services as a whole. That is why collaboration is at the core of our programme, and why we are asking participants for a personal, an organisational and a system commitment to take part.

Overall the focus has to be on answering: “What skills or behaviours do Chief Executives need to develop or display in order to be effective when dealing with the big, tricky ‘stuff’ facing us now and in the future; how do we need to change and how do we influence those around us to come on that journey with us?”

By Deborah Cadman, Chief Executive of Suffolk County Council and Solace Spokesperson on Leadership and Learning