The leader as boss

 
The boss is another name for your manager. "The Boss" is also how the chief executive is referred to by other senior managers. In his new book "The myth of the strong leader" Archie Brown argues that political leaders are not always the boss. He quotes US president Truman " I sit here all day trying to persuade people to do things they ought to do without my persuading ....". Most managers would recognise that feeling.
 
 Brown's argument is not that leaders do not have as much power as is generally assumed but that some very effective leaders have exercised leadership in a way that recognises the need to defer to others with greater knowledge, experience or skill in a particular area. This is not about listening to advisors but allowing those you have put in charge of ministries to get on and run them. The opposite of this is the so called strong leader who randomly intervenes, who must have there own way, they are in charge and the only opinion that really counts is theirs.
 
 The relevance of this to the public sector is the impact of austerity on management structures. Increasingly there are fewer managers with greater spans of responsibility. Managers with a professional background in one discipline and one service area are expected to lead a range of services they have little knowledge of , no experience of and no professional expertise in. Although the requirement to deliver ambitious performance targets and unpopular budget cuts might tempt some to adopt a "strong leadership" style the danger is that this results in discouraging debate, seeing dissent as disloyalty, being unwilling or unable to change direction even in the face of overwhelming evidence and ultimately reckless behaviour. 
 
The post austerity public sector leader recognises the complex ,sluggish nature of public sector transformation, that change involves changing peoples thinking on what is feasible and desirable, so a lot of persuading and a willingness to let others have their way.
 
Blair McPherson author of People management in a harsh financial climate published by Russell House www.blairmcphetson.co.uk 
 
 
 

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