Delivering on the front line in a sea of change

Saxton Bampfylde’s Leadership Services team works as an extension of organisations across the UK to help them recruit and develop the very best leadership talent. Cassandra Woolgar explores the key considerations for public bodies looking to maximise skills and ensure success.

When we consider the qualities of a good, or even great, leader within public bodies we should think first about two key areas: what is a leader’s ultimate purpose and what gets in the way of achieving it.

Leaders need to be clear on their purpose, seek to understand the pressures and drivers affecting those they represent and serve, and remain resilient to criticism and external pressures, while being open-minded to alternatives. They must aim to strike the tricky balance of remaining firm and resolute, whilst also knowing when to flex their position. Leaders do not always need to be charismatic champions, but at least clear, rational and convincing communicators.

There are a number of areas that are vital for leaders in the public sector to focus on to ensure the success of their organisation.

External pressures

Ensuring a level of independence and autonomous authority in a supervisory capacity on behalf of parliament is the cornerstone of public bodies. However, external pressures such as increased political interference can be significant. Leaders need to be clear on their organisation’s purpose and remain resilient in the face of challenge or criticism. There is also an ever-growing need to be as open and transparent as possible without compromising the organisation’s integrity.

Technology and innovation

The emergence of new technologies and the need to embrace them is unavoidable. AI and machine-learning will make data capture and interpretation much faster and more reliable. In the meantime, however, there is a requirement to be pragmatic about current capacity around technology and where ideas or initiatives may need to be revisited in the future.

Changing work force

Leaders need to be tuned in to ensure organisational culture is moving forward. Failure to do so risks staff losses to organisations able to offer better salaries or more attractive benefits packages. If leaders are disinclined to praise and celebrate success, staff will not feel motivated and rewarded so ultimately provide less value.

Transitioning leaders

Leaders in this sector are often extremely smart problem solvers. Those who have risen up through the organisational ranks will have done so often due to their exceptional technical competence. Therefore, the challenge is knowing how to transition from technician to a leader. Often, new leaders will no longer be required to be operational in their focus, but instead required to work through others to achieve a higher purpose. This can be a challenge for many as they progress into a leadership role.

Transformational leaders

Some of the best leaders we see within the sector are those who balance their passion for what they do with a concern for those who they work with. They create positive and engaged cultures with committed followers, freely expressing thoughts and concerns. Additionally, they embrace diversity of thought and are receptive to challenge whilst being prepared to accept if they get it wrong. The latter is a key trait, which should be nurtured and encouraged in a leader.

Knowing oneself

A good leader needs to be able to recognise their own shortcomings, as well as the limitations of their immediate team and how they might need to complement each other. This heightened level of self-awareness and acceptance is an important first step. The second is to ensure that those they surround themselves with are clear on their roles and responsibilities, as well as where they fit in to the bigger picture and that they have the support and backing of their leader.

The underbelly of leadership

Like all humans, leaders are subject to fears, anxieties and perceived threats. For some, this can manifest itself in a range of ways and this needs to be managed to prevent a negative bearing on them, their team, and the organisation at large.

At Saxton Bampfylde, we work closely with our client organisations, whether it be helping to select the next leader with the right behaviours and motivations, coaching leaders to best succeed in their role, or supporting leadership teams and boards to ensure they deliver optimally. If you are interested to hear more about how we could work in partnership with you and your organisation, please do get in touch. 

Contact Cassandra Woolgar

Back to Government - 2019