Esprit de corps: Leadership for progressive change in local government

Barry Quirk

Central government is encouraging councils to change their decision-making systems and to modernise their services. Most of the ensuing debate has been on external ‘incentives’ for progressive change.

This paper by Barry Quirk, Chief Executive at the London Borough of Lewisham, suggests how progressive change can be achieved from within local government. From his perspective in managing a council with a strong reputation for innovation and effective service delivery, the author suggests that politicians need to recognise the importance of new modes of civic engagement and leadership.

In addition, local government managers need to reinvent their organisational design, their internal accountability and their core competencies. But above all, managers need to encourage an organisational culture that fosters entrepreneurship and a positive sense of organisational efficacy. Community-based planning, service targets and disciplined methods may not on their own offer the necessary conditions for success. The author suggests that progressive change will only occur when politicians and managers build and sustain a deep sense of collective responsibility for improving local community well-being.

The author concludes that a feeling of commitment and team spirit – an esprit de corps – needs to be developed amongst politicians, managers and employees if they are to succeed in providing effective local leadership.

Downloads

Downloads