First we had leaders make the difference, success is based on strong leadership. Then it was no more heroes because the charismatic individual’s insistence on uncritical loyalty can lead you astray. This was followed by the need for leaders at every level in the organisation and for all managers to have leadership skills. Unfortunately all managers didn't want to be leaders and all managers couldn't live up to the expectation, some though being an effective manager was enough.
The latest slogan is “wining without leaders", essentially this is stressing the power of team work. Different times call for different types of leadership, the "strong leadership" is most effective for short term criss where radical action is needed quickly, a new management structure is imposed, budget cuts are forced through. Where as if an organisation needs to change its culture then a leader who prompts debate, challenge and openness will be more effective in changing the way people think. Team work is required whatever the type of leadership but winning without a leader implies that at different times different people can take responsibility and provide inspiration. This is particularly attractive in partnership working as it recognises that the biggest organisation is not always the best or most appropriate to lead.
Having said all that successive governments have been obsessed with the quality of leadership in the public sector whether that be head teachers or chief executives of NHS trusts. Why? Could it be that they attribute the slow pace of change and the failure to convince teachers, social workers and doctors that their policies will result in better services, to poor leadership!
Blair McPherson author and commentator on the public sector www.blairmcpherson.co.uk