Mr Mair told delegates at the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers Scotland conference in Edinburgh that, unless COSLA's relationships with councils became more robust, the convention would be forced to adopt an 'incredible' position with the Scottish Executive. COSLA's role should be to influence the agenda, set the pace of change and provide support not found elsewhere, he said.
'Too often, we react to what's happening. The way we're organised impedes debate on modernisation,' he said.
'We have no capacity to address how to support councils in organisational development. We need a different structure and culture.'
Mr Mair said COSLA's relationship with the Executive must be based on a 'parity of esteem' so it could set the agenda as well as follow it.
He called for trust to be established with councils, which could include constructive criticism.
'If we suggest an improvement, there's a tendency to think we're
saying 'you're not good enough',' he said.
'We can't go to the Executive and say nothing's going wrong because that becomes an incredible position.' nothing's going wrong, because that becomes an incredible position.'