Single insight


Opinion,comments and learning from experts and people using systems leadership
approaches across public services in England. Give us your views using the ‘comment’
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It’s a mistake to assume that the idea of systems leadership is only relevant for chief executives and senior managers. In the systems model, everyone has an equal role to play in achieving change. Here are some of the arguments for systems leadership from a range of perspectives.


  • System leadership takes local government’s traditional partnership approach to the next level – encouraging all the local partners to think in terms of systems with the interests of local citizens at the centre, rather than being organisations representing their own interests
  • Thinking and working in systems is the only way local government is going to emerge from the next round of cuts as effective community leaders – councils cannot do it on their own
  • All public sector organisations have a duty to their citizens to make every pound count – systems working is the best way to achieve this
  • Only local government can bring all the local partners together
  • Ultimately system leadership is about empowering service users and citizens.

Senior managers

  • Systems leadership will probably be the toughest, but most awarding, thing you have done as a public sector leader
  • It is the way that those at the top of the public sector can ensure they can still meet their citizens’ needs despite the depth of cuts
  • It is our job to ensure that the maximum value is wrung from every single taxpayer pound
  • It is doing what we have always known works best – thinking about the user first and working together
  • Citizens are not interested in our organisational boundaries
  • Systems leadership will only work if senior staff model its values in everything they say and do.

Frontline staff

  • Systems leadership empowers frontline staff to do what they have always known is best for the citizen
  • It is about everyone in the system demonstrating leadership
  • You are the people who will make this work because you are closest to the service users.


  • The systems leadership approach underlines our deep commitment to partnership working
  • Local authorities need to see the citizen as being at the centre of the system, not the council
  • Citizens want us to work together as one team, and have no interest in our organisational boundaries
  • Working together is the only way each of our organisations will be able to achieve its goals
  • This represents the best use of our scarce resources
  • The tighter money gets, the more important it is that we all think and act strategically rather than focus on short-term goals.

User groups

  • Systems leadership is all about putting the user and their experience, not organisations or services, at the centre
  • System leadership levels out the power gap between service users and providers by making the needs of the user the driver of how things are done
  • We know this is what you have always wanted – for us all to work together as a seamless team.

Regulators and inspectors

  • We need your help to do this – by allowing us to think and act in systems rather than forcing us back into our organisations
  • We need you to let us focus on the big picture, not an individual targets which often have little relevance to service users
  • We need you to help us take down barriers between services and organisations.

Based on content from Richard Vize of Public Policy Media Ltd