The Future of the Leadership Centre
Nearly a year on from his appointment as Chief Executive, Mark Rogers, shares in this latest blog the work that he has been doing to shape the future direction of the charity.
Over the last year I have spent a significant amount of time getting to know as many of our alumni, enablers, trustees, allies and participants as possible. Throughout that process, I have heard repeating themes in the issues and challenges leaders currently face, not least the evolving and changing nature of places and systems.
While the cost-of-living pressures are uppermost in many minds as the most pressing set of concerns, so other pre-existing themes such as tackling inequality, working in political environments, developing cultural literacy, understanding the future of work, addressing the climate emergency and bringing together health and social care continue to tax leaders across sectors, systems and places. Sitting alongside these functional challenges is a range of other issues such as having support for personal resilience, finding safe spaces to think and reflect, creating the conditions for imagining new futures and addressing the continuing lack of system connectedness.
In looking ahead, it is important for me to remember that the Centre’s purpose and distinctiveness has always been borne of that restless enquiry into how leaders can best understand and navigate complexity and, accordingly, achieve the greatest public good through their partnerships and in their places. This will remain at the heart of our ambition, not least because this is exactly what we have been continuing to hear in our conversations over the course of the last year.
In response to all that we have heard, the Centre’s emerging strategy is being built around three missions: Innovate | Inspire | Invest.
The purpose of this mission is to strengthen the Centre’s research and development capability to ensure existing and new programmes benefit by incorporating the learning that comes from examining the cutting-edge leadership issues that matter most to you. We believe that innovation happens when unlikely combinations of people come together in enquiry, so we act as a convenor, connecting a variety of disciplines through a rolling programme of ‘Enquiries’ (short and medium term in duration) anticipate and investigate the changing demands of leadership and the challenges being faced. The Centre will create an investment fund to resource this programme and will seek to work with partners wherever possible to co-produce and co-resource these activities.
This mission is focused on the Centre’s ongoing commitment to delivering relevance and excellence in all its core programmes and commissioned work, sharing generously its learning, thought leadership and extensive intellectual and human resources and networks. It also reflects feedback received that we should grow the role, involvement and impact of all the Centre’s alumni and allies, ensuring the availability of more entry and progression pathways, a wider range of learning sets and networks, and a programme of one-off refresher or new learning opportunities.
Within this mission, the Centre will seek to bring forward programmes and other learning and development opportunities that both strengthen the pipeline of future leaders and ensure its diversity – reaching out to under-served sectors, organisations, people and places. In particular, there is an ambition to create more opportunities for first and middle leaders to engage in systems thinking, system challenges and place-based leadership so that they are better equipped both in the here and now and for more senior roles they may seek in the future. This mission also aims to secure a small number of medium-term partners and one-off sponsors who have a commitment to developing their own leadership capabilities and, in pursuit of this, investing in the Centre’s missions and programmes overall.
This is a strategy that is underpinned by the spirit of collaboration. The Centre has enjoyed for many years now the benefits of being super-connected to a wide range of individuals, institutions and representative bodies – some are single-hander Enablers, some are organisational-level partners, others are close friends and allies with whom we share the same ambitions. Such collaboration is based on the principle that a diversity of background, thought, experience and expertise is the lifeblood of any living system and, as well as meeting the needs of present and future leader in terms of the issues faced, I also want the Centre to build further its reputation for assembling and making available insight and learning from as wide a range of collaborators as possible.
So, to use a very old phrase, the Centre is seeking to bring a progressive balance of continuity and progression to its work (and, therefore, strategy). There are foundations that we want to strengthen – adaptive leadership, public narrative, system thinking and much more – but we also want to build up and out and ensure that we are offering the best in applied learning to all those leaders committed to delivering public good in their places and systems. It is clear to me that in order to empower leaders to have the greatest collective positive impact on the communities they serve, we will need to continue to listen and offer our expertise in a way which recognises the unique identity and needs of each and every place.
I very much look forward to implementing our ambition through these three missions in the coming months and years. With that in mind, if you have thoughts about topics you would like to see included in our rolling programmes of enquiries, please do get in touch. We are also eager to hear from middle leaders about what would most help you in your leadership journey. If you have suggestions, please do feel free to get in contact with me directly. We are here for you.