Local and regional government face unprecedented challenges. These include economic uncertainty, the need to tackle climate change, acute housing shortages and increasing customer expectations. All this is alongside long standing financial pressures and jarring inequalities within the communities they serve. The importance of inclusive leadership during these times has never been so important to ensure people’s needs are met not just now but sustainably so for the future.
As long as there have been leaders in society there have been those who tried to determine what works and why – from Machiavelli to Tony Robbins. Local government has its own experts, and our understanding of leadership best practice improves all the time. This is important given the role of a local government leader is a whole new complex beast compared to 40, or even 20, years ago.
McLean Public is proud of its broad network of colleagues across local and regional government, and we thought who better to ask about the current key leadership challenges across the sector? Here’s a summary of their thoughts:
Diversity and its impact on culture
Including and embracing new perspectives and cultures in organisations is essential to improve the way leadership relates to people both inside and outside the organisation. Bringing in diverse perspectives not only provides different dimensions on cultures and lifestyles, but also introduces new ways of working and ideas to be implemented.
The ability to inspire and motivate colleagues is key. Understanding the factors that motivate colleagues individually and aspire them to thrive in new opportunities is important, but equally so is empowering them to develop and demonstrate leadership behaviours to both ‘step in’ and ‘step up’, and inspire others. This will make employees feel more engaged, trusted, and more likely to take ownership of their own leadership journey.
Local authorities are constantly under pressure to tackle both long-standing challenges and the unexpected just around the corner. We are seeing an increased ability to learn from the past and make bolder decisions on anticipating and preparing for future needs by encouraging not just innovative solutions, but also innovative ways of working and co-production with partners, businesses and residents. Since the pandemic, more and more services are digitally focussed – from Zoom meetings to self-fulfilment of daily transactions. This has further increased the impetus to innovate more frequently and to bring in fresh ideas unthinkable a decade ago.
Maximising the leadership opportunities of ‘the new normal’
Most organisations are expanding their search for talent as location becomes less relevant due to the progress of technology in the workplace. Teams are able to collaborate more frequently via digital platforms and the pandemic provided us with the confidence to deliver on long-term and short-term strategies whilst being disparately located across the UK. Agile and hybrid working is ‘the new normal’ and many opportunities from this are yet to be fully capitalised on.
Creating a vision in an ambiguous would
By all conventional benchmarks, any vision must be compelling to the organisation’s workforce, and it must inspire employees to look forward to contributing at work each day. Also, it’s widely agreed that there needs to be a sense of connectedness between the organisational vision and the team members who make it happen. Local government leaders today, however, are being asked to offer vision and lead in an environment that is unlike anything experienced before – an environment defined by ongoing uncertainty, conflicting priorities and unprecedented events. It’s time for leaders to embrace this. The notion of the static vision of the past has gone. Constant change is the new status quo.
If you’re struggling to diversify your organisation’s leadership team, please get in touch as this is something McLean Public can support you with.