Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


  • Comment
There is no universal agreement on what creates leaders - but we can agree on developing potential, says Jonathan T...
There is no universal agreement on what creates leaders - but we can agree on developing potential, says Jonathan Trubshaw

Interest in leadership and what makes great leaders is increasing. Wartime leader Winston Churchill has just been voted the greatest Briton of all time in the BBC series Great Britons. But how are we creating local government's future leaders?

The Employers' Organisation, together with the Improvement & Development Agency, has created the Leadership Development Commission, which aims to create a strategy that develops great leaders for local government. This is a partnership supported by key national, regional and local stakeholders including the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, the Society of Chief Personnel Officers, the ODPM and the Audit Commission. Its purpose is to identify how we can improve leadership development. Our aim is not to develop the skills of those just in senior positions but for everyone in local government.

The drive within local government to improve the quality of its leadership is relentless. This has been given greater impetus by central government. There

is a need to publicise and celebrate what has been achieved. We also need to recognise there are weaknesses in the supply side. It is crucial to involve and gain the support of councillors. Leadership needs to take place at all levels within an organisation if it is to improve.

There is a significant amount of development activity already. Soft skills, such as motivating people, empathy and people management, are being developed. Some councils have developed relationships with academic partners to deliver tailored qualifications, while others have developed leadership competencies and in-house development programmes.

We are investigating how different approaches work and have produced case studies so councils can learn from each other. To make a significant impact, all these approaches need to become more systematic and cohesive.

Three emerging areas affecting the effectiveness of leadership development are the culture of the organisation, the quality of the development input and the recruitment and retention of potential leaders.

A culture of devolved leadership is needed to encourage the development

of people who can lead in different situations at all levels. Development activities need to meet the demands of both improving individual capability

and providing supportive organisational infrastructure and culture. Organisations need to believe in and support the development of the fundamental skills of motivation, innovation and vision.

Attention needs to be given to attracting the people who want to

become leaders then providing the opportunities that motivate them to stay within the public sector. Local government should build on its links

with other parts of the public sector and with industry to provide greater learning opportunities.

It is clear from the variety of courses on offer that there is no universal agreement on what constitutes the essence of leadership. What is clear is that we can strive towards an agreement of what works when developing potential.

The EO will ensure commission's work recognises and embraces the benefits of a diversity of approaches, organisationally and individually. We

will discover and share the best in practice and development, and develop strategies to help councils create the right organisational climate and conditions.

The debate about leadership rages on. The commission is not the end in this debate. It is not even the beginning of the end - but it might help us towards

the end of the beginning.

Jonathan Trubshaw

Manager, people, skills and development,

Employers' Organisation

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.