On Friday I attended the OneTeamGov Discovery workshop on Leadership. The workshop was inspired by the Twitter discussion following the results of applications to the Future Leaders Scheme (FLS) last November.
Leadership for What?
This was the big question of the day, and we spent time listening, talking and since Friday thinking.
One of the things that I’ve been thinking about is the character of good leadership. We covered it quite extensively. The key bits we all seemed to hold common were
- Self awareness
- Sensitivity to context
- Clarity of purpose
There were several others but those four seemed to be the core. The group I discussed this with posed the question that what we wanted in good leaders was good people.
There’s a core humanity to leadership. Someone who can see us all as individuals, and tailor their approach to work for each person. All the while getting us to all pull in the same direction.
This seemed to be a common element, because we all worry that we might be bad leaders to some people. Self-awareness can help us understand the impact other things are having on us, and how that affects our behaviour.
This is just good sense for us all, whether leaders or not. We’ll have better relationships with those around us if we are conscious of ourselves. We can stop the grumpy outbursts before they happen if we’re aware of them. Similarly we can recognise our privilege and our biases, and then ensure that we don’t let them get in the way of good decisions.
What we seem to share is a wish for our leaders to care about us. Real, authentic compassion rather than fake.
Finding Good Leaders
The FLS is all about finding people who can be good leaders and accelerating their development to ensure a pipeline of future permanent secretaries. This is all very necessary, but it’s missing a trick. The folk with a perm sec badge in their briefcase are probably pretty speedy anyway. What we need to find are the people that bubble under who would make fantastic leaders and develop them.
There are probably loads of people that don’t aspire to be a perm sec but who could make public service more rewarding and more effective. Many of them were in the room on Friday. I hope I’m one of them.
What we do probably need to do is organise a multitude of development schemes to tailor the effort better to get diversity properly embedded at all levels of public service. We need to be enabling a new culture which values collaboration, self-awareness, openness, self organising and 21st century in its outlook. I can see it coming, but it isn’t yet quite strong enough to be the mainstream.