Building leadership capability in the Public Services
Public Service NHS
Maurice Duffy

Written by Maurice Duffy

In the present economic climate, leadership development is becoming a critical issue within organisations. With the recent government announcement regarding Public Services cuts amounting to billions in many countries around the world, leadership in the Public Services is going to be especially important. Do we believe in Public Services that delivers real value?

It is only through effective leadership practices that Public Services organisations will be able to effectively and efficiently make the necessary cuts and enable organisations to flourish. This White Paper examines the key decisions required regarding the development and delivery of leadership development programmes in the Public Services.

I was recently asked by a senior civil servant what were my thoughts on the current leadership requirements within the Public Services, and I responded the same as those that apply within the Private Sector. The challenge I got from this answer was how could this be true when the purpose and drivers within the two leadership models are so very different.  Interesting question. Perhaps a pause for thought. A little research and reflection required. The conclusion I arrived at was that the purpose and drivers of Private / Public are not different, per se,  it’s more a matter of language rather than substance.

What stood out for me during my research, was the sheer number of current leadership models in the Public Services (figure 1). The mind boggles with the amount of consultancy work available in designing models for the Public Services. But, does it matter? Are they meaningful? Will they change anything?

Right now there is, as we all know, a debate over the privatisation of many aspects of Public Services delivery. The rationale used by some is to allow market forces to drive service and cost effectiveness and thereby meet many of the financial gaps in funding faced by our economies.  The challenge with this thinking is how do we balance the needs of the less fortunate in our society with a proper value equation for good Public Services, and the profit needed by the Private Sector in order to generate true interest and fierce competition?

The cry you hear most often to privatisation is that the Private Sector will cherry pick profitable pieces of the Public Services and commodities, neglecting services that are perceived to be non-profitable, which they are forced to carry as part of their portfolio in order to play in this space. We need to ask ourselves: are these requirements contradictions and are contradictions a good and positive thing in any system?

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