When thinking of public sector leaders, who comes to mind? The best chief executive you have worked with? The most impressive council leader or directly elected mayor? The most inspiring community leader or government minister? Or the best front line manager making a difference to the public? And very possibly, not someone with a formal management role who exudes leadership to others, especially when most needed in difficult situations.
My reflection is that nowhere is an example of leadership more than policing. With a sustained reduction in police resources over the decade, and reductions and then rise in reported crime, I admired Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick’s challenge to Prime Minister May’s assertion that there was no link between knife crime and police cuts. This was leadership of the public discourse.
I also think of the public finance profession which hold the reins of their organisations, allowing them to flourish, not just survive. Their expertise and insight is fundamental to shaping sustainable services in the age of austerity, and is as much a leadership role as a technical one.
CIPFA is working with the police as a sector to develop the police forces of the future. Our 'Achieving Finance Excellence in Policing' programme gives finance professionals working in police the opportunity to drive and enforce changes that align the vision for the sector with its practical needs and expectations, at a time when the sector needs leadership to understand, articulate and ameliorate the effects of austerity.
We need leaders who give optimism. And I don’t mean misplaced starry-eyed messaging that nothing is wrong, or that change is not needed. I mean compelling and determined energy and focus that a way through has to found. As my dear old granddad, who didn’t retire from the East End docks in the 1960s until aged 76, so marvellously put it when things went wrong…"It’ll be all right in the end, and if it isn’t all right yet then it isn’t the end."
This article first appeared in The MJ.