Future Leaders Scheme 2021 – Personal Statement

I thought it would be worth sharing my personal statement for the 2021 round of  UK civil service Future Leaders Scheme. I know others have done this in the past. Several people I’ve met through OneTeamGov did a few years ago, including @Ayymanduh. I went to the Leadership workshop #DWL19 that spawned when none of the people involved made it through.

Criteria for the Future Leaders Scheme varies year to year, but there’s a level of consistency. It’s a development scheme for people already working at G7 or G6 level and hoping to enter the Senior Civil Service (SCS). This statement got me through the sift to the interview stage. It isn’t clear as a candidate how much is down to the testing, and how much is about the statement. About half the applicants from my department got an interview, only about 1 in 4 of those will be offered a place in 2021. (That’s 190 applications, 90 interviews, 21-22 places).

James Kemp, MBCS on Twitter: “I seem to have made it through the FLS sift somehow.” / Twitter

For what it’s worth, I was pretty sceptical about the Future Leaders Scheme at the point when I applied. Rather than let the imposter syndrome win I chose to give it a good go. I decided to be brutally honest about that. I figured that if I could harness that dissatisfaction then maybe I could make something good come of it. If nothing else getting through the sift has given me confidence to apply for SCS posts again.

Future Leaders Scheme 2021 Questions

Describe why now is the right time for you to apply for the Future Leaders Scheme/Senior Leaders Scheme. (500 word limit)

You should cover the following points in your response:

  • What motivates you to further your leadership career? 
  • What is it about your approach to leadership that makes you stand out?
  • Why do you think you have the capabilities to make the most of the opportunities on this accelerated development scheme? 

(target – 500 words total)

My Personal Statement for the Future Leaders Scheme 2021

I’m sceptical of talent management, the narrative is not as inclusive as it should be, I believe that everyone has talent, not just the anointed few. I don’t see people like me in the SCS, not at a scale that is anything other than exceptions. People who grew up in council housing in under-privileged communities, with failing state comprehensives where people didn’t go to university, much less Oxbridge. I hope that they exist beyond what I can see, and I wish they were more visible.

I’ve been a civil servant for almost my entire adult life. In that time I’ve gone from admiring and being inspired and empowered by confident SCS to a position where those SCS I work with are rarely inspiring or empowering, but fuelled by self-confidence beyond their competence. In the same space my confidence is continually knocked, and I want to change that narrative. I know when I reflect that I have a wealth of experience in the heart of government. That I handle difficult stakeholders well, and persuade people to change their behaviours. I have a depth of expertise in change, and designing operating models with an eye on the big picture. I have made cross-departmental collaborations happen and routinely build high performing teams from people that others have written off, and with them deliver truly remarkable results.

At university I was in the University Officer Training Corps (part of the Army Reserve as it’s now known) and I was trained to be a reserve officer. Out of university I joined the Department of the Environment on a graduate management development programme. This mixture of environments, and types of people, and reasons to lead, gave me multiple perspectives on leadership. My leadership style is highly adaptive, and I like to be open and engage with people directly.

I ran a passport office with 300 people. While I was there the passport office dealt with a third more applications in peak weeks without overtime or additional people. As well as higher output we caught more frauds, and saw no grievances – even though I used poor performance measures to improve capability in about 10% of people, and a few people who couldn’t do the role were sacked.

In DWP I had a team of 51, including about half a dozen people unwanted by major projects. I formed them into an engagement team, and they created communities of practice, and inspired by that success they started an awards scheme and ran our first Project Delivery Conference, which was copied by IPA for the cross-government profession.

Even with decades of experience I still know that I can continue to improve how I do things, to hone leadership skills still further, making me even more inclusive and supportive, to be able to inspire and empower my teams and imbue them with the confidence to succeed and deliver outstanding results. I think FLS might help me do that, if it lives up to the promise in the guidance, and that’s why I’m applying.

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