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Leadership for Change Programme

The Staff College, formally known as the Virtual Staff College (VSC), the Leadership Centre, Public Health England, NHS Leadership Academy and the National Skills Academy for Social Care collaborated on a single national programme, which brought together leaders from Children’s Services, Adult Social Care, Public Heath the NHS and the Third Sector.

Underpinned by the construct of systems leadership and referencing international research published by the College, the programme offered alternative approaches to leadership, particularly relevant to the complexity and ambiguity faced by those leading public services today, and brought to life through individual participants working on real systemic challenges with their peers.

The building blocks upon which the programme was constructed are the six dimensions of systems leadership as identified by international research published by the Staff College.

Public services are no longer provided by simple organisations that can deliver at the press of a button, and service improvement requires the engagement of an ever growing number of stakeholders, rather than by compliance with a set of rules, however skillfully devised.

What we need is a much more sophisticated approach which recognises the complex times we are living in, where demand for services is up and tolerance of failure is down. Increasingly, there are multiple sources of authority for the delivery of public services and those in leadership positions are increasingly working in a context of ever growing complexity and ambiguity.

The Leadership for Change programme offered senior leaders from across the public sector the opportunity to develop a whole range of skills that helped them through the increasingly complex leadership challenges facing them.

Given the nature of this programme, places were offered to small teams of people who were committed to a shared systems challenge that they wished to make progress on during their time on the programme. Each place team was made up of a minimum of four participants from a range of professional disciplines and organisations. In practice, we have found constructing teams like this to be the most effective way to embed lasting change and our experience from the first two cohorts told us that smaller teams have struggled to gain traction for the changes that they are trying to effect locally.

As part of the application process, all applicants were expected to submit a supporting statement which demonstrated a willingness to deploy the attributes of a systems leader to effect positive change in their local context.

Successful applicants had the opportunity to attend a pre-programme 24 hour residential event to learn about the leadership constructs of ‘Wicked, Tame and Critical Issues’ and ‘Adaptive Leadership’ with two leading experts in their field, Keith Grint and Irwin Turbitt. These are important underpinning constructs for the programme.

The programme was made up of three, two day residential events, a series of complimentary Master Classes, a bespoke 360 degree survey examining the characteristics of systems leadership and access to a pool of highly experienced coaches.