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


General Dental Council announces new Chief Executive and Registrar

Andrew Comben appointed new CEO of Britten Pears Arts

Dr Nicholas Cullinan OBE appointed as new Director of the British Museum

Saxton Bampfylde partners with Family Business UK

Professor Robert Mokaya appointed Provost and DVC at University of Sheffield

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2024

Steering the family business forward: Interview with Emma Fox, CEO of Berry Bros & Rudd

Leadership in the age of AI: CEO Breakfast with Doug Gurr, Director of the National History Museum

Sustainability Dinner with speaker James Cameron, Chair of Crown Agents

What will healthcare look like over the coming decade? Interview with Nigel Edwards

Middlesex University announces its new Vice-Chancellor

SafeLives appoints new CEO

Do the right thing: ESG in 2024 – Interview with Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Lamp House Strategy

A Healthy Perspective Podcast – Helen Buckingham, Nuffield Trust

New GPhC Council members appointed for 2024 and 2025

RICS senior governance appointments

An Independent Mind: Sharpening the role of a law firm NED

CLCH appoints new Director of Strategy, Partnerships and Integration

Into Film appoints Fiona Evans as new CEO

An evening for current and aspiring non-executives with Kenny Imafidon

V&A announces Director of Collections and Chief Curator

RNLI appoints new leader to take charity into third century of lifesaving

Erika Lewis appointed CEO at Connected Places Catapult

Alex Frazer Announced as the New Head of Bancroft’s

Sue Baillie appointed as Woldingham’s new Head

Royal Hospital School appoints new Head

The University of Manchester appoints Professor Duncan Ivison as next President & Vice-Chancellor

Championing the Mission – Interview with Jonathan Morgan

Quadrant Chambers appoints Sarah Longden as new COO

New Oasis Community Learning Chief Executive Announced

Rachel Kent made Financial Regulators Complaints Commissioner

Steering the family business forward: Interview with Paul Drechsler CBE

Indhu Rubasingham appointed as Director of the National Theatre

Northumbria University, Newcastle appoints new members to Board of Governors

Professor Tom Crick joins DCMS as Chief Scientific Adviser

Norwich Theatre appoints Tom Sleigh as new Chair

MOSL announces Cliff Kamara as new Board member

Saxton Bampfylde welcomes Partner Hannah Scarisbrick back to the firm

Saxton Bampfylde ranked in Financial Times UK’s Leading Recruiters 2024

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation and Association Welcomes Martin Houghton-Brown as Secretary General

Royal British Legion Announces New Director General

English Heritage announces New Blue Plaques Panel Members

Paul Ridd named Director of Edinburgh International Film Festival

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra announces Lord Tony Hall as new Chair

Team Consulting appoints new CEO

UK Civil Aviation Authority Appoints Rob Bishton as the new Chief Executive

The Box appoints Rebecca Bridgman as Head of Collections and Programme

English Heritage appoints Dr Nick Merriman as its new Chief Executive

Breadth and depth: leading across the regulatory landscape

Who’s Moving in Healthcare – August-September 2023

Wise counsel: bringing an external perspective to Higher Education

Looking through a different lens: a scientific scope from academia to government

Outside In: Leveraging External Perspectives in Higher Education

Samori Gambrah announced as Chair for New Art Exchange

Chris Auty appointed as new Director at London Film School

Cherian Mathews appointed as new Chief Executive of HelpAge International

Dr Dave Smith takes helm as UK’s National Technology Adviser

Now Teach appoints new CEO

A Healthy Perspective Podcast – David Hare MBE, CEO of Independent Healthcare Providers Network

Dr Paul Thompson appointed as British Council Chair

Appointment of new CEO for GLF Schools

Bas Javid appointed new Director General of Immigration Enforcement

New CEO appointed for the UK’s national synchrotron, Diamond Light Source

University of Nottingham appoints new Pro-Vice-Chancellor for its Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

Béatrice Butsana-Sita appointed new CEO of the British Red Cross

Michael Plaut OBE announced as new Chair of Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

Will Gompertz announced as the Soane’s new Director

Who’s Moving in Healthcare – June-July 2023

Dr Ghazwa Alwani-Starr appointed as new COO at University of Bath

PA Housing announces five new non-executive members to join board

Storyhouse appoints new CEO: Annabel Turpin

Claire Wood Hill announced as new CEO of The National Brain Appeal

OnBoard Programme broadens the horizon for board membership

James Williams announced as the next Director of the Royal College of Music

A Healthy Perspective Podcast – Sam Jones

#7 Road to Recovery: Integration, inclusion and innovation in the Healthcare sector

Who’s Moving in Healthcare – April-May 2023

SCIS appoints new Chief Executive

Talk with Sir Stephen Wall to celebrate Pride 2023

Celebrating Volunteers’ Week 2023

Celebrating the Contribution of Trustees from Underrepresented Backgrounds to the Arts: Launch Event

A Healthy Perspective Podcast – Nick Costa, UK CEO at Ramsay Healthcare

Challenging Crisis: Learning lessons in Leadership – Charlotte Hill OBE, CEO at The Felix Project

#6 Road to Recovery: Integration, inclusion and innovation in the Healthcare sector

The Air Ambulance Service appoints new Chief Executive

New Director of Tate Modern appointed

BBC News announces new senior appointments

Hosting Panorama’s Global Researcher Conference 2023

A Healthy Perspective Podcast – James Tugendhat, CEO at HC-One

George Watson’s College announces New Principal for August 2024

Iain Conn to chair EngineeringUK

Eunomia appoints sustainability change-maker as inaugural CEO

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra appoints new CEO

Build better places with people at the core: Interview with Neil Sachdev

New Director appointed at The Foundling Museum

Jesse Jones announced as new Artistic Director at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate

New Headteacher announced for Aylesbury High School

St Aloysius’ College appoints Patrick Doyle as Head of the College

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2023

Our future in our hands: creating lasting and shared prosperity for the nation