Leadership principles

Leadership advice given to the Munro Review (4)

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking
we used when we created them. (Albert Einstein)

  1.  Implementing the Munro recommendations successfully will require high levels of both management and leadership expertise. If they are to meet the future challenges, authorities, officials, members and partners are likely to see this challenge as significantly different in focus and capability from hitherto.
  2.  Managers have to satisfy the organisation’s needs of both today and tomorrow. On the one hand, they provide day-to-day stable and consistent management of child protection services, while also exercising leadership to challenge and bring about change and improvement focused on securing a better future. They also need to balance improving service efficiency and effectiveness, sometimes under tight budget pressures. At a senior level, leadership activity itself divides between an official’s hands-on change-leading role and the supervision or oversight of other managers who are engaged in direct leadership action and programmes. These multiple roles call for awareness, discipline and good time management.
  3. Among the many challenges of the change process, three stand out:
  1. Putting in place particular Munro changes by agreed dates.
  2. Over a longer timeframe, developing the working culture in the direction pointed out by Munro.
  3. Moving from old to new child protection working arrangements in a way that maintains high standards and minimises transition risks.

The various leadership challenges are explained in greater detail here.

  1. Getting leadership right cannot be achieved by concentrating on a small number of senior appointments, by selecting the best strong leaders who will push harder for commitment and compliance. Nor can leadership be assumed to happen by virtue of having good leaders, because leaders are not independent of the system, its capability and relationships. Leadership is much more than authority, and leadership behaviour should be valued and encouraged at all organisation levels.
  2. Senior officials should put in place processes to ensure that:
  • managers have clearly demarcated accountable roles and are formally held to account for delivering leadership in them
  • understand and perceive a leadership role for themselves as a key component of their job
  • that this leadership role contributes improvements to the way the system learns and works
  • and that this leadership role is reinforced through managerial processes and in formal learning experiences.

Distributed leadership is crucial to managerial empowerment and being part of change and not part of those needing to be convinced of others’ planned change. It calls for care over organisation design and management structures and processes.

  1. Leadership is best understood as a process, one that is manifested not just by many individual managers, but also in relationships, and in the spaces between partner agencies. Leadership is a property of the system as well as of individuals, and a resource to be husbanded. The aim is for that system to be demonstrably well led holistically and not simply be known for having good individual leaders.
  2. Appropriate governance and performance management systems need to be in place for ensuring that leadership performance (in addition to meeting agreed child protection measures) is managed, delivered, improved, and requirements made clear, at all points where leadership is needed. The delivery of required outcomes should be actively managed though a process by which accountable senior officials and members (whether singly, and as colleague teams and partners where appropriate) are held to account by appearing before appropriate officials and bodies, both regularly and ad hoc in connection with specific change delivery requirements.
  3. Leadership in a managerial hierarchy sometimes feels like a zero-sum game; but success for those leading does not need to be at the expense of those who are led. A system’s capacity for leadership can always be expanded. Realising leadership capacity and using leadership opportunities takes time and effort to build. By contrast, leadership waste in organisations – particularly down gaps between managers, teams, functions and partners – is widespread and an act of managerial carelessness. Where child protection systems have failed catastrophically on occasions, the organisation’s system of leadership has usually failed in one or more ways. For improvement to come about, leadership waste needs managing as much as leadership development.
  4. Managers should use their leadership role to monitor (i) the way the system is continually learning and improving, (ii) what the system requires of front-line workers, and (iii) how healthy and free of toxicity is the system that surrounds workers. They will need a high level of awareness of how organisations perform as systems. (See Munro report 1)
  5. The nature of modern leadership of complex adaptive systems was set out in Munro Report 1.
  6. To achieve the above, councils should specifically review their leadership process and leadership culture, and develop a strategy for making improvements.