Wednesday 10 February 2010

Leadership and Heroes

A three speech week.

Tuesday I was with the Public Sector Leadership Development Team. I am part of a review of leadership development in Government that is being led by Peter Housden (PS at the Department of Communities and Local Government).

It's an interesting time for the various Academies in the public sector. Against a backdrop of looming spending cuts it is always tempting for organisations to cut training. This is a mistake. However that development and training has to be relevant to the context of a sector facing spending cuts an a country demanding a better public service geared to the citizen. The difficulty of many leadership development programmes is they are often divorced from the reality of the job and drift off into learned discussions about "from good to great" and other such management gobbledygook. Often what is needed is a more person centred programme which may be about peer learning or mentoring.

I made an impassioned speech to the gathered leadership gurus from the Civil Service to think about how they teach "disruptive innovation". How they get managers to think about public services from the perspective of the citizen or the community. How they democratise commissioning. How they think more radically than marginal improvements in delivery.

I talked about the Canadian example from last week's Guardian Summit on how Martin implemented a massive cuts programme and so how they must think new approaches not salami style cutting. It was a great opportunity to get some top civil servants to think of the leadership challenge of an age of public sector austerity and how the third sector can provide answers to their delivery problems.

Wednesday I was in Central Hall, in front of an audience of 1180 people opening the Action Planning conference on Future Funding. Over the years I have learnt that public speaking can be great fun. I don't understand why some people find it intimidating. That is not to say I don't prepare well. But I don't speak to a script or to PowerPoint. Old fashioned oratory ought to carry the day! And on that note I even used a quote from Horace.

"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”

Such insights are always ageless.

Angela Smith MP spoke, as did Nick Hurd MP, so we had a good chance to hear approaches from both the Parties on how they will tackle the third sector.

I was down to do the Ra Ra introduction to the event. And to set the tone I talked about some of our sector Heroes. Jo Mitty, who invented the charity shop at Oxfam which now brings in over £500m to that magnificent charity. And the Notting Hill priest, Bruce Kenrick who enraged at Rachmanism ended up remortgaging his house to set up what became Notting Hill Housing Trust and Shelter. (A little later I met a lady, an ACEVO member, who Said she had known Bruce and told me his wife had died recently, aged 83, and she had been at the funeral. And as often the case had been the mainstay behind Bruce as he battled away for the disposed!)

In our sector ambition and drive, rage and passion can achieve amazing things against the odds. So as I said from my pulpit in central Hall, let's not be downcast. Let's not wring our hands in despair about cuts. But grab the opportunities of change. The future decade is one of growth for our sector

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