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NLGN and collaborate leadership roundtable event


In collaboration with NLGN, Veredus hosted two roundtable discussions with chief executives – one in Sheffield and the other in London –to discuss collaborative leadership in the context of the new shape local government is taking through the devolution deal.

While there were many common threads in the two conversations, the differences were striking.  In Sheffield the focus was devolution and ambitions for place, whereas in London it was more about organisational leadership and dealing with the complexities on the doorstep.

All agree that collaborative leadership is crucial to the ability of local public services to enable better outcomes for communities.  The complex landscape of public service provision, governance and legislation is brought into sharper focus through devolution.  Successful transformation of services will need ‘system translators’ who enable joining up across institutional boundaries.

Whilst the current crop of senior leaders have grown into this new role, austerity and the economy-wide competition for talent have meant that there isn’t a generation of accomplished leaders to follow them.  We also know that social norms and expectations (for example of digital natives and millennials) will mean leaders will have to have a different frame of reference anyway.

From the Sheffield event, the over-riding sense was if you are starting to think about collaborative leadership now it’s probably too late; more progressive and successful authorities have been doing it for years under different guises.

Our guests were sanguine that Whitehall isn’t entirely sure what it means by devolution and are pragmatic about making it work in the local context. The government hasn’t really explained their policy concerning a number of big issues such as housebuilding, so, it is for devolved bodies to articulate it for them. Devolution ‘theory’ is struggling to keep up with what’s actually happening on the ground. This is creating an operating environment for local authorities which is more instinctive and opportunistic, creating leadership opportunities.

Some key observations from the conversations include:

- Future talent will be motivated by the values and mission of organisations more so than previous generations and there is an opportunity for local public services to use this to attract future leaders.
- Previous investments in talent have been undermined by leakage of talent out of the public sector (though we would like to have a stronger evidence base for this).
- Movement between public service providers is a good thing because it increases the number of system translators – so a means of developing public service-wide talent would be preferable.
- London in particular offers both the breadth and depth to be an interesting place to build a career and a range of service providers who would be interested in harnessing this talent.
- The private sector is as much a part of this as the public sector, given the level of engagement between the two.

We think this gives us all a call to action:

- The sector needs to create a means of deploying talent in local public services – perhaps a single talent management scheme that builds on NGDP – to increase the prevalence of system translators.  The first step is to co-design with key stakeholders a solution vehicle that could do this perhaps initially across London public services.

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