Common purpose: breaking the mould of leadership models

Written by: Julian Ellerby

October 13, 2014 - 11:23 am
Categories: Business , Lambeth , Local Government

Leadership, collaboration and innovation are areas I spend a lot of my time considering in depth.

Last week I joined a debate with members of Common Purpose. This is a development programme that supports and enables ‘Leaders’. An interesting term in itself as everyone sat in the beautiful setting of Somerset House and considered how collaboration and innovation are key to the future.

The implication of moving away from a traditional model of leadership was not lost on the wide array of people present and it as really refreshing to meet people so open minded about their own roles. They came from all sectors both charity, private and civil service. It was also good to share some of the pain and issues with a number of other local government staff in the room.

Being open to rather than leading innovation

My role was to talk about innovation and to consider how we open ourselves to it instead of lead it. I posed a challenge to each of the groups I worked with: a successful Boris island has come about and 250,000 people have jobs and places to live but there is no cultural offering. My question simply was ‘what do you do?’

The idea behind it was to see how thinking works when you have a blank canvass. I then followed it with a Lambeth scenario of 10 library buildings, reducing budgets and a wide understanding of what a library service looks like. The point I was making is that context is crucial when considering innovation.

What I really wanted to understand was how you can change mind-sets inside a context that seems largely set. We also have statutory rules, ingrained values and principles, budgets and politics as part of this context. I then got them to think about how you change the mind-set of people in adult social care at huge pace – and the ideas were exciting, interesting and also hugely realistic.

Lambeth’s experience

I finished by setting out briefly my own journey in Lambeth. Our move to co-production and co-creation across the council has been a tough journey but we can see some real innovation coming through this.

Within our own team at Lambeth we co-produced the website with the community, using hack days and real genuine involvement from the community. The need to look at new models of delivery and to create sustainable ways of delivering on these means we are now trading with other authorities and establishing partnerships.

Context is changing the thinking, and the need to look at leadership in a new way sits centrally at the heart of real genuine innovation.

This was a thought-provoking evening and a debate that we intend to remain at the heart of.

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