Alchemy – leadership in the pandemic age?

By Dr Andrew Larner | 10 February 2021

During the pandemic leadership has been tested across every sector in so many different ways.

Of course the move to working online has been a significant shift, and without this in many cases local leadership has released a creativity that has delivered genuine value at the local level.

Local businesses have delivered essential community support and banded together to keep their business going in ways that conform to the ever-changing rules.

In our area, the local shops came together to co-ordinate deliveries using a mixture of phone and Facebook. But local authorities have lent their capacity and design capability to work with local business in really entrepreneurial ways; both Dorset and Eastbourne (1EBN is well worth a look) have created online stores that create a smooth shopping experience with a single shopping basket and single order and payment for the customer across goods from all local shops. This has not only provided a platform for all local independent shops, but it’s also kept shops open online that have had to close their doors to face to face custom.

We know the high street has been changing for some time with increasingly challenging times pre-pandemic. Like many other things the pandemic has accelerated this trend. Likewise, councils have been developing local leadership and an entrepreneurial approach that isn’t just rooted in the need to create money to survive, but to create value locally for communities to thrive.

Local leadership has come a long way since the early days of the Improvement and Development Agency and the leadership of Mel Usher in developing a resource to support the sharing of best practice and personal development in the sector. In other ways though looking at the early publications of the IDeA like The Man in the Caravan some of the core tenets have remained the same.

To explore this, we are conducting an update of the last systematic look at leadership in the sector. Back then a fresh-faced doctoral student was working on his PhD of ‘Leadership in a Political Environment’, and now Dr Jonathan Huish, who has done so much with the sector and in developing leadership in councils across the UK and overseas, has set up a new venture, ‘Capital People’.

Capital are helping us to use the leadership diagnostic used in Jonathan’s PhD research. Initially we will be validating the changes in leadership from the first survey of the sector, and then we will make the diagnostic available as a free part of Alchemy - Alchemy being our online approach to disrupting the sharing of knowledge, and personal development in local public services around the world.

If you are a leader in any part of local government, whether an officer leading a team in the community or a councillor or chief executive, we would love to have your support for this initiative. Please do so by completing this form on our website: https://iese.org.uk/leadership-diagnostic

Dr Andrew Larner is chief executive of the Improvement & Efficiency Social Enterprise (iESE), which supports public sector transformation

www.iese.org.uk

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