Public services are now more complex than ever and are facing increasing pressures, such as changing demographics, economic uncertainty and rapidly evolving technology. Today’s public service leaders need to have the skills to work in an ever-changing and challenging landscape, delivering services with significant constraints in financial and personnel resources.
In 2018, the Better Public Services Report by the Public Services Leadership Taskforce identified three primary themes that leaders in the public sector found challenging:
▪ As leaders progress in their roles, it is essential that there is a mechanism in place to enable access to leadership networks that provide support, best practice sharing and learning from the experience of others.
▪ Leaders are constantly taking on new responsibilities so need support to rapidly develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours they need to fulfil their potential.
▪ Public services are complex and cross-cutting, so increased and effective collaboration between leaders, stakeholders and partners is a source of considerable public value.
Local authority regulatory services play an important role in public service delivery and are key to protecting local communities and supporting economic development through their work with local businesses. At the same time, they collectively have to respond to national threats and balance local expectations with the various statutory duties set out by central Government and national regulators.
During the pandemic, a Whitehall Regulatory Services Task and Finish group was set up by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (now called the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities). Underneath this, a working group was established to specifically consider resources, capacity and qualifications. This group discussed the current challenges for regulatory services resources as well as possible options for addressing them.
Leadership development within Regulatory Services was identified as a priority for action. It was recognised that the lack of regulators in senior management positions impacts on the ability to influence areas such as decision-making and budget-setting.
Investment in regulatory services leadership development not only helps to provide current strong local regulatory leaders, but will also in turn help to produce senior advocates for regulation who have a seat at the top table and can influence the future sustainability of services.
In parallel to this work, a report from the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Institute of Leadership and Management called Leadership in Housing – the Looming Capability Gap explored ways to develop the next generation of housing leaders. Many of the issues highlighted in this report were equally applicable to local authority regulatory services and inspired a group of experienced regulatory leaders to develop a leadership programme that was designed specifically for local regulators. This programme was designed to provide a consistent approach for leadership development in our professions across the UK.
OPSS, in partnership with LGA, CTSI and CIEH, is supporting the Regulatory Leadership programme, which is delivered by Closha Associates. The programme is run by experienced regulatory leaders who understand the specific challenges faced by front-line services. This enables tutors to demonstrate, from professional experience, how theory can be used in practice, which enables positive behaviour change for front-line regulatory leaders.
The Regulatory Leaders programme has also been independently verified and accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management and follows their Dimensions of Leadership. These dimensions are based on extensive research into the knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviours and values that enable organisational leaders to achieve successful outcomes in any private, public or voluntary sector: Achievement, Authenticity, Vision, Ownership and Collaboration.
These five dimensions are absolutely essential for developing regulatory leaders who are authentic, empowering, collaborative and inclusive.
Harter (2002)1 defined authenticity to mean that ‘a person’s thoughts and feelings are consistent with their actions’.
Authentic leaders are recognised by their integrity and so inspire trust. They know and live by their values, and they challenge and empower others to be the best they can be.
Regulatory leaders can demonstrate authenticity by:
▪ Acting with integrity and fairness in all decision-making;
▪ Remaining open and honest to help build trust;
▪ Consistently putting professional interests before their own personal views;
▪ Being a positive role model for other staff in their team or service.
Vision is a significant aspect of leadership as it involves the skills to look ahead, innovate and cope with the unknown.
Visionary leaders realise that a clear strategy is essential and that it is vital to inspire those around them. They are able to spot when change is required and put this on their service/team agenda. Vision is essential for leaders to respond effectively and create opportunities in environments that continue to transform at a rapid pace.
Regulatory leaders can demonstrate vision by:
▪ Developing ‘future-ready’ plans, even when unsure what that future is;
▪ Remaining alert and making the right moves to get services/teams where they need to be;
▪ Being creative and innovative;
▪ Adapting their responses to the need for change.
Regulatory leaders need to be adaptable to rapidly changing and dynamic environments in order to be effective and achieve consistent results.
An achievement orientation is about having purpose, delivering outcomes, being proud of one’s work, stretching oneself and others, and being willing to adapt as necessary. Achievement requires ongoing engagement in activities that improve performance.
Leaders with an achievement focus are more likely to be positive role models who can demonstrate how to deliver desired outcomes.
Regulatory leaders can demonstrate achievement by:
▪ Focusing on constantly evolving their achievements and not being static;
▪ Being involved with activities that help to improve their performance;
▪ Ensuring team and individual objectives align to deliver outcomes;
▪ Helping others in their team to feel supported to deliver in their roles.
The damage done to the morale of employees when their leaders shirk responsibilities and deflect blame onto others should not be underestimated (Miller, 2008)2.
A leader demonstrates ownership when they take responsibility, act in a decisive way, solve problems, delegate well to others, use their own initiative and undertake regular reflection on events and their own actions.
Regulatory leaders can demonstrate ownership by:
▪ Taking personal responsibility for their everyday behaviours, actions and interactions;
▪ Leading others by example and showing they are prepared to get involved;
▪ Encouraging and allowing time for personal development;
▪ Empowering colleagues to take ownership of different work areas;
▪ Allowing others the opportunity to learn from the mistakes that that they make and not using these as the basis for a shaming exercise.
The complexity of public sector organisations and the volatility of the environments within which they operate call for a new approach to working outside and across organisational boundaries. Successful leadership encourages, facilitates and supports collaboration. Collaborative leaders encourage people to work well together and are able to work effectively with others inside and outside their organisation.
Regulatory leaders can demonstrate collaboration by:
▪ Investing in relationships;
▪ Understanding the dynamics of all teams;
▪ Recognising the value of internal and external networking;
▪ Dealing effectively with conflict;
▪ Taking a proactive approach to managing partners and stakeholders;
▪ Recognising the value of diversity and inclusion.
Visit tradingstandards.uk/cppdtest to complete the question and answer section of this module.
1 Harter, S. (2002), “Authenticity” in Snyder, C. R. and Lopez, S.J. (Eds), Handbook of Positive Psychology, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 382-394.
2 Miller, L. (2008) From difficult to disturbed. New York: Amacom