Under pressure to reform delivery, improve resource management and develop new models of governance, remised upon better collaboration and engagement with stakeholders and citizens, managers and leaders are faced with the task of lifting performance beyond the execution of traditional process. The article explores some of the features of this evolving style of leadership as a framework to encourage managers to rethink and refresh their knowledge, skills and experience in the context of the changing needs of public services. These challenges are set within an emerging paradigm described as ‘engaged leadership’.
This concept is used to contrast a style of management which is open, inclusive emotionally intelligent ND connected with what may be represented as counter intuitive to the traditional ways managers have tried to facilitate and maximize the performance of others. Introduction In the significant challenges that face managers and leaders to reform and improve Welsh public services we are beginning to see a new leadership behavior emerge that combines a different set of competencies from those we may have exhorted managers to develop in the past.
Under pressure to reform delivery, improve resource management and develop new models of governance, premised upon better collaboration and engagement with takeovers and citizens, managers and leaders are faced with the task of lifting performance beyond the execution of traditional process. This article explores some of the features of this evolving style of management as a framework for encouraging managers to rethink and refresh their knowledge, skills and experience in line with the changing needs of public services. For reasons that will become apparent, I have chosen to describe this newly emerging paradigm as ‘engaged leadership’.
It reflects a move towards a relational mode of management that we might describe as open, inclusive, emotionally intelligent and connected. For many managers and leaders this represents a counter intuitive challenge to the traditional ways we have tried to facilitate and maximize the performance of others. Before describing this change in management and leadership practice, this article will begin by focusing upon the public service context in Wales and the demand this is placing upon Welsh managers and leaders to develop a wider and more relevant skills port folio.
Within a trans-national context, the challenges faced by managers in Wales are not dissimilar from those faced by men and women leading and managing revives in other parts of the KICK. We can of course find variations in the wider public service policy context often described as the ‘clear red water’ (Morgan, 2002) distinguishing the philosophy and principles underpinning public service delivery in Wales from that in England, however within a local context the challenges faced by managers and leaders are broadly similar to those outlined above.
Implicit in this analysis of some of the emerging development needs of managers and leaders is a recognition that to learn to do something differently one must occasionally unlearn or discard those practices and behaviors that no anger serve a clear and useful purpose. These manifestations of management and leadership behavior reflect the accumulative knowledge individuals have acquired over the course of their careers to meet the imperatives of the past.
It is not that they have become discredited but that anachronistically they serve another time and space. Addressing the tension between the old and new forms of management is often the most difficult and contentious stage in the process of acquiring new skills and knowledge. The sentiment associated with the ritual and tradition of long held beliefs and practices can often challenge and occasionally feat the rational logic we use to lubricate organizational change. 1 For the purpose of this article, the terms management and leadership are used interchangeably to reflect the fact that while they are functionally distinct and separate, the same individual often performs both roles. In practice, managers spend some of their time leading and leaders spend some of their time managing. Deciding within a situational context when to manage or to lead is the critical factor determining the success of each (Heifers and Links, 2002).
This notion embraces the belief that leaders emerge often within real time and for a pacific purpose as well as through more conventional processes of assignment (Hardcore, 2002). The public service context in Wales It is clearly evident to those engaged in management and leadership development that the current pressures to reform public services represent a burning platform on which managers and leaders are having to evolve and adapt or cease to exist.
The improvement agenda unfolding across Welsh public services is all encompassing and paradigmatic, reflecting root and branch reform at a systems-wide cultural and structural level. In this respect, the terms of reference underpinning the ay managers and leaders will need to operate in the future are being re- written into the evolving blue print of public service reform itself. For those of us who can remember, this move towards a new way of doing management is not a new ritual but one that we have honored in the recent past.
During the sass’s a new public managerial emerged in response to a decade of iterative public service reform (Exhorter and Halyard). With its emphasis upon competitive models of service delivery and business transaction, coupled with explicit measures of performance and service dies-aggregation, managers were inculcated with a set of values and behaviors that challenged the old gods of Fabian paternalistic endeavourer. Drawing upon private sector technologies to deliver public service outcomes became the modus operandi of a new generation of managers and leaders.
It is in the context of this management dialectic that a new model is emerging to challenge established beliefs and practices about what managers and leaders must do to deliver improved services. Within Wales, the public service improvement agenda has become the dynamic underpinning reform at all levels of service delivery and across all sectors. These changes re not confined to individual organizations alone but the wider public service community as a series of interacting and collaborating agencies collectively responsible for the social and economic wellbeing of the wider population.
This includes Local Government, the INS, the Civil Service, Assembly Government Sponsored Bodies and in some cases Non-devolved Government Departments. Within the context of this systemic transformation, managers and leaders have assumed by design or in some cases default the central role in making change happen. Their primary purpose is to initiate change and reform within the public service value chain and to manage the tension of maintaining systems equilibrium during a disestablishing period of transformation.
In the context of public service reform, the responsibilities placed upon managers and leaders to meet the challenge of change requires that they exceed their authority and risk their personal significance to succeed where others would or have failed (Huffiest and Links, 2002). This venture into unmapped territory requires a significant shift in the self-perception and awareness of managers who may have traditionally considered their role to be defined in terms of control and systems maintenance. At the current time approximately 304,000 people work within public services in Wales (Public Service Employment Digest, 2005).
A conservative estimate would suggest that between fifty and sixty thousand individuals carry a responsibility for managing or leading others. This figure is growing as the imperative to improve day to day performance increases in line with the expectations 42 we place upon our managers and leaders to deliver outcomes. Unfortunately investment in management and leadership development remains fairly static as budgets continue to be determined by resource availability rather than source need (Smith, 2007).
Current per capita expenditure is as low as eighty pounds per head inside a number of public service organizations. This level of investment falls significantly below the European average and confirms the fact that within the UK we spend less on management development than any other major post-industrial economy (ibid). The disparity between the lower level of productivity within the UK compared to other countries, approximately 20%, has been attributed to the level of investment in management and leadership development.
Within a public policy context, the impact of the review of Welsh public services by Sir Jeremy Became and the subsequent publication of Beyond Boundaries: Citizen-centered Local Services for Wales (Became, 2006) upon the nature and scope of the public service improvement agenda has been considerable. Identifying the key themes of culture, complexity and capacity to encapsulate the challenges facing Welsh public services, the report serves to reinforce the case for wide spread reform in relation to a number of critical themes.
These include improving citizen focus and engagement, building robust and durable partnerships at an individual and organizational level. Also enervating better use of resources to make the Welsh pound go further and developing models of governance that unshackle creativity and support the emergence of a prosperous and fully formed Welsh nation state. The challenges that face Welsh public services and perhaps more importantly the managers and leaders who must deliver improvement include breaking away from cultures that are driven by compliance, protectionism, competition and opacity.
These facets of Welsh public service culture have in general stifled innovation, disguised weak or poor performance, encouraged shortcoming and constrained diversity. In relation to the issue of capacity, the lack of leadership skills featured highly within the review. Significant skill deficits were evident in the field of communications, partnership working, general management, innovation and creativity, and stakeholder engagement. The consequence of these capacity constraints were evident in the comparatively poor performance of welsh public service organizations.
Within the review itself, Became attributed the gap between policy aspiration and service delivery to unnecessary complexity in the governance process, citing ‘variable geometry’ and the complexity of the livery map as a net contributor to poor service performance. The prevalence of competing jurisdictions and often overlapping boundaries created a climate of ‘busyness’ that compartmentalized responsibility, encouraged boarder patrol and detracted from the real business of delivery. This in turn, led directly to significant amounts of confusion and obfuscation within the value chain.
Within the context of creating better and more efficient use of resources, the review recommended that leaders develop their ability to work beyond the boundaries of their formal authority to embrace the additional roles of enabler, contractor ND co-producer. This expansion of the role of public service leaders was directly connected to establishing new models of governance delivered through partnership and collaboration. In response to the review itself and the recommendations it proposed, the Welsh Assembly Government published a programmer of action in the autumn of 2006.
This included the establishment of Local Services Boards operating as regional partnerships between INS, Local Government and third sector organizations within specific localities. Officers of the Welsh Assembly Government would attend partnership boards to support the collaborative process, 3 provide a vehicle for communication and help maturate the dialogue between key players. To date, six Local Service Board pilot projects have been established across Wales to explore the boundaries and test the feasibility of this new model of working.
Early indications suggest that the themes of shared governance, resource management, service integration and in some instances reconfiguration and re-organization, loom large on the Local Service Board agenda. A further programmer of action involved developing a range of learning interventions to support managers and leaders acquiring new skills and knowledge. This has resulted in a range of new learning experiences including international placements to sub-Sahara Africa; scholarships to the J. F.
Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, public service summer schools for up to three hundred managers and a new post-graduate programmer in public service collaborative leadership to be launched in the spring of 2008. From the perspective of public service managers and leaders, the impact of the Became Review and the establishment of Local Service Boards albeit embryonic at the current time, evidence an intention on the part of Welsh Assembly Government o reform in a whole systems way, the nature and function of Welsh public services.
The personal and professional challenges emerging from this change process for individual managers and leaders broadly fall within four domains. They are not in themselves mutually exclusive but reflect the degree of emphasis placed upon particular aspects of the improvement agenda and the underlying areas of competence to which managers must in future aspire.
They are: Working collaboratively and in partnership between the prescribed boundaries and beyond the traditional authority of public service organizations; Engaging takeover communities including the public service workforce, the service user, other providers and the citizen in a co-productive, meaningful relationship; Developing new technologies to manage the tension and dynamic between risk, governance, creativity and innovation; Finding ways to make sense of the change process for others and to influence outcomes and meaning beyond the realm of immediate control. What is engage leadership and why is it important?
The four development themes detailed above are significantly removed from the traditional fields of competence individuals have sort to acquire to develop and improve their reference. Not only do they re-direct managers and leaders towards a different set of priorities, they also focus upon developing new perspectives and patterns of personal behavior that place relationships and human engagement above the totemic importance of organizational process. In this context, managing organizational complexity and ambiguity has become critical to harnessing the energy and intangible asset base of public services.
The concept of engagement describes the ability to step beyond the pale of organizational structure and process to interact and participate in ways that innocent and engage human endeavourer. To create a sense of shared mission among disparate communities and interests. It acknowledges that within today’s complex and ambiguous work environment not all things can be transacted through prescribed processes, that success is contingent upon developing new forms of social and human interaction which incentives and harness individual enterprise.
Recent research has suggested that only 13 to 14% of the workforce is fully engaged, 22% are completely disengaged and the remaining critical mass of approximately 65% strategically manage their disengagement. The consequences f disengagement for organizations are profoundly damaging. As part of its 2006 International Survey of employee engagement, Blessing White found that individuals who were not fully engaged in delivering the goals of an organization were likely to be ‘spinning, settling or splitting’ (Blessing White Inc. , 2006).
Those that were spinning were wasting their talents and skills on tasks that were not sufficiently important and below their ability. Those that were settling had already reached a plateau in the level of their contribution and were either waiting for something better or entering semi-retirement. Those that ere splitting had made the decision to leave and were in the process of actively seeking other employment opportunities. An estimate of the financial costs of disengagement to the Welsh economy based upon a proportion of the UK as a whole is calculated to be in the region of 1. Billion pounds. This represents the actual cost of managing the effects of employee disengagement and the diminished capacity within organizations for achieving higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness. These costs represent the cumulative effect of low level productivity, workplace absence, a higher than average prevalence of organizational disruption and conflict, cultural inertia and insularity, recruitment and retention difficulties, change aversion and diminished innovation capacity.
The reasons why individuals disengage include dissatisfaction with the way they are treated by their line manager, pay inequity, lack of development opportunities and over-regulation and control (ibid). It is well documented in the research base underpinning this phenomenon that individuals join organizations but leave their managers. Ensuring individuals are full engaged and motivated is a critical role for managers and leaders. The concept of ‘engaged leadership’ is a summary description of the skills and knowledge necessary to address the four domains outlined above.
Measured in terms of the ability to create impact and outcome through others, an engaged leader is defined as someone able to operate in the here and now, to manage in the moment, or as Sense has suggested, to be fully present in a physical, emotional and intellectual way at the right time and in the right place (Towers Peril, 2006). Engaged leaders operate in real time, seeking outcomes and solutions that are delivered at the point when they are most needed.
They utilities the energy and power of the present to generate outcomes that are not constrained by the past or contingent upon the future. Their engagement and connection with others is a liberating interaction beyond the realm of formal control. They build strong and powerful connections with people, places and principles to become the embodiment of the change process itself. At any one time they are the object and agent of change. Engaged leaders are emotionally intelligent. They exercise intuitive judgment based upon profound self-awareness and knowledge of others.
They are reflexive and self- learning. They use their personal and professional authority to connect others to the goals and outcomes of the organization. They are often described as innovative, approachable, honest, passionate and adaptable (Sense et a’, 2005). Unconstrained by boundaries and less committed to pre-defined plans, they are prepared to risk their personal status and credibility to secure change for the good of all. In the next section of this article we shall look at the four areas of leadership competence that underpin this emerging model.
They are depicted in the following graphic as narrative leadership, connected leadership, collaborative ND thought leadership. Within the context of becoming an engaged leader or manager they are co-dependent themes existing within their own right but often indistinguishable in the process of personalization. For instance, a manager who is a good storyteller will use their sense-making skills to influence the thoughts and behaviors of others. They are likely to build and invest in relationships using the techniques of thought leadership to promote connectivity and collaborative practice.
However for the purpose of this article it is useful to explore each theme individually to map the skills and attributes that constitute engaged leadership. 45 Figurer. A model of engaged leadership Narrative Leadership In today’s complex and often ambiguous work environment managers and leaders must make sense of change for others. Narrative leaders and managers tell stories to communicate change to others. A story becomes real when different events or incidents are connected to each other and placed within a social context to signify meaning. Storytellers make sense of social phenomena for others.
Through illustration, they provide the context and rationale for why things happen and offer an account of a different type of future that might be imagined by the listener. An example of contemporary storytelling that has had a profound impact upon those who have listened is AY Gore’s narration of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. With the alacrity of the Ancient Mariner he has on innumerable occasions told the tale of environmental destruction to enraptured audiences across the world. His story is simple, profound, thought leading and durable both historically and culturally.
Within the context of organizations and the workplace itself, story-telling can be a vehicle for inspiring and driving organizational change. Stories can help to tell the truth of organizations, layering and simplifying the complexity that often obscures organizational processes and behaviors. They help to expose the unwritten customs, rituals and practices embedded in the culture of organizations. Stories are sense- making devices that bring people together around a shared language and imagery. Telling a story can help to unite aspirations and promote commitment.
To bring about both cultural and structural transformation, leaders and managers must extend their reach into those parts of the organization where control and authority is often weakest. Stories can pan both the formal and informal space (The Hay Group, 2007) inside organization. They link the official structures, systems and processes with the culture, internal relationships and micro-politics of the workplace. Storytellers manage the tension between orthodox ways of doing things and radical alternatives. They help to build a platform for change by liberating the imagination of individuals to do things differently.
Telling stories can serve many purposes within an organization. They can help to improve communication and promote innovation. They facilitate the transfer of insight and knowledge across organizations, building community and aiding collaboration. Stories enable individuals to externalities their fears and aspirations and to advocate on behalf of others. To tell stories well, managers and leaders must be able to draw upon a personal library of knowledge and information to narrate an event or incident that resonates with the interests, ambitions, values and beliefs of the listener.
The art of a good story is in the telling, timing and relevance. It should enable the listener to access his or her own depository of self-knowledge and experience. To enhance the performance of others through storytelling, managers and traders must ensure the stories they tell are well constructed, realistic and not too prescriptive. Engaging individuals in the process of storytelling is enabling them to find their own truth and meaning. The language used to narrate the story must also be accessible and not value laden.
Telling stories for the sake of telling stories is not a useful enterprise it will deter listening and devalue the experience. For this reason, narrative leaders must focus upon the use of stories as a device to shift perspectives and change minds. In the context of transforming organizations though the individuals who work within them hanged from a management and leadership perspective is often about managing meaning. Finally, stories that are too long are likely to bore and frustrate the listener.
The best stories are often of less than two minutes duration. Storytelling is a tool of engagement. It enables those responsible for managing and leading others to build connectivity with individuals and communities by sharing personally relevant experiences. It promotes trust and awareness of others, encourages others to tell their story, and acknowledges the gigantic role of the individual. Thought Leadership Influencing the thoughts and behaviors f others is a difficult and demanding task for many managers and leaders working within public services.
This is partly because of the sheer volume of organizational traffic and ‘busyness’ that often undermines the clarity of purpose individuals need to do their job well. The ability to influence others is further exacerbated by the complexity of organizational structures and processes and the ambiguousness of modern hierarchies no longer predicated upon time served ritual and practices. Lines of accountability are less formal than they may have been in the past and the power to control the behavior of others sees absolute and authoritative.
In this environment where issues and priorities compete for attention, the ability to influence others in what they think and do has significant currency. It requires the ability to use language and conversation to capture the attentive interest and concentrate the thought of other parties often beyond the terrain of formal control. To affect individuals in terms of their thoughts and feelings is not difficult to achieve. A brief consideration of the conversations we have had in the past after which we might have changed our minds or altered our view of the world would testify to this.
However, effective thought leadership is not a game of chance or opportunity. It requires an understanding of the direction that particular thinking habits travel and of the social thinking process itself (Polyhedron, 1988) If we wish to 47 change the way people think we need to address the deep structure of our conversations with other. This is often hidden or submerged beneath the cultural veneer that determines our social interactions. In his analysis of what makes a successful thought leader, Ryder offers six forms of conventional thinking that form the basis of dialogue between individuals inside organizations.
They are as follows: Deficit thinking – thinking that focuses upon the problems or weaknesses of a proposition; Rational thinking – thinking that gives disproportionate emphasis to the logical or sequential; Sticky thinking thinking that attracts other ideas or thoughts in much the same way as word association but which is not incremental or evolutionary; Commonsense thinking – thinking that involves the application of generalized knowledge without insight or expertise; Binary thinking – thinking that encourages oppositional ideas or focuses upon the definitive differences that distinguish and separate one thing room another; Equity thinking – thinking that uses the concept of fairness as a construct upon which to evaluate and determine all other things. Each of these different thinking technologies has significant merit in relation to influencing the thoughts and behaviors of others. They are the tools we use everyday in our conversations with colleagues to convey out thoughts and ideas and more importantly convince others of their value.
Often we will use them to progress our own ideas and simultaneously to devalue or weaken the arguments and views of others where we feel we may be in competition. They will be used o advance and defend those things that we believe in and wish to share with others. However to be truly effective, Ryder suggests thought leaders must expand each thinking style to incorporate a corresponding or alternative way of thinking. In the case of deficit-thinking, this must be strength-based thinking, encouraging individuals to build on the merits of a proposition and not just dismantle or diminish it. For rational-thinking, the alternative is feeling-thinking, an approach that advocates an intuitive and emotional perspective to balance the use of logic and rationality.
To enhance the benefit of common sense- hinging, insight-thinking is used to weight the analysis of any proposition with expertise and wisdom. As an alternative to binary-thinking, re-interpenetrating can be used to create a third option and reconcile what on the surface seem to be diametrically opposed views. 360 degree-thinking can help to expand the narrow interpretation often given to issues of equity. Finally, exit-thinking can be used to recalibrate a conversation and stall the technique of sticky-thinking (Ryder, 2007).