Looking back at our first year
Stephen Crookbain, the Director of the National Leadership Centre (NLC), reflects on what has been delivered in NLC’s first year.
Tomorrow, the National Leadership Centre (NLC) will begin the second year of its activity by launching Year Two of its programme for senior public service leaders. As we look forward to an exciting year ahead, I’d like to take a moment to pause and celebrate all that has been achieved over the last twelve months.
The NLC’s purpose is to help the country’s most senior public service leaders develop the skills, knowledge and networks required to address society’s most complex strategic challenges. To help us achieve this we have been supported, guided, and challenged by an Advisory Board made up of senior leaders from across the public sector, and we’re proud to have made some very positive progress.
Making big steps
Last September, we launched the first year of our leadership programme for around 100 Chief Executive-level leaders. We wanted it to be challenging, supportive and inspiring, and we wanted it to form deep connections between delegates. We’re delighted with the feedback that tells us this has happened. Phil Garrigan, Chief Fire Officer for the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, said the programme gave him “access to a network of people that inspire you to lead. I can’t recommend it enough.”
We built the network of public sector CEOs — the first time this group had been identified and brought together by HMG. There are around 1,200 people at this level, and in January around 400 of them joined us at the National Leadership Forum. At this event and others that have followed it (many being online of course), we’ve had challenging, stimulating workshops on topics such as supporting vulnerable citizens, the diversity of the CEO network, learning and improving in complex systems, and — of course — leading during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’ve undertaken a lot of research: contributing to and understanding the evidence on leadership in the public sector is one of our strategic aims. We shared our first leadership qualities and tested them in workshops, pilots, and academic research. We explored the availability of data on leadership across the public sector. And we’re excited about our plans to publish the results of this work in the coming months.
As the whole of the public sector responded to the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NLC changed with it. Our support for the CEO network became focused on information flow between central government and the people leading the front line response across the country. We conducted weekly surveys of our network to understand their experiences, followed up with qualitative research and interviews. Our new team of liaison officers developed personal connections that complemented this evidence, giving us an in-depth understanding of the experiences across the senior leader group, the difficulties they face, and the positive changes that happened in such unprecedented times.
More to come
I’m proud of the progress we made in our first year. We’re seeing very positive early results, and we think these will turn into the type of positive impact on society and public service that we’re really looking for.
None of this would have happened without the outstanding work of our first CEO, Kris Murrin who achieved far more in a very short space of time than any of us thought possible. When she started, the NLC was just a concept, and her drive and passion turned it into what we are today. To underline her impact, the former Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, gave a lecture at The Blavatnik School of Government where he called establishing the NLC “one of the proudest achievements” of his tenure.
We’ve had a great first year, with much to build on over the next twelve months. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, recently underlined his commitment to supporting learning and development across all parts of our public services in the Ditchley Annual Lecture. We have a key role to play in bringing the most senior leaders together to achieve this, and we are excited about the challenges and opportunities that await us.