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Celebrating excellence

Written by: Dawar Hashmi is director of executive search at Penna​​​​​​​
Published on: 20 Jul 2023

Leadership plays a pivotal role in the success and growth of any organisation, including local government bodies. Acknowledging and celebrating exceptional leadership is crucial as it not only boosts morale but also sets a benchmark for excellence. At The MJ Awards this year Penna was proud to sponsor the Chief Executive of the Year and the Corporate Leadership Team of the Year awards. These accolades recognise the outstanding contributions of individuals and teams, fostering a culture of excellence, innovation, and continuous improvement.

The value of recognition

Awards serve as powerful motivators, fuelling ambition and inspiring leaders to strive for greatness. By recognising outstanding achievements, The MJ’s local government awards highlight the importance of exceptional leadership and the positive impact it can have on communities.

Furthermore, the recognition and prestige associated with these accolades not only elevate the profile of the recipients but also encourage others to emulate their success, ultimately leading to better governance and improved service delivery.

Senior Leadership Team of the Year: Fostering collaboration and excellence

This award recognises the collective effort and collaborative spirit of the executive team responsible for overseeing the day to day operations of a local government. The accolade underscores the importance of teamwork, effective communication, and cohesive decision making in achieving organisational goals.

By honouring the achievements of the leadership team, this award not only fosters a sense of unity but also encourages collaboration, innovation, and the pursuit of excellence at every level within the local authority.

Ben Cox, director of executive search at Penna says: ‘The judges were all very impressed with this year’s winners – South Hams DC and West Devon BC. Their approach to and focus on organisational development was clear as was their authenticity, humility, warmth and clear “one team” focus.’

Chief Executive of the Year: Honouring visionary leadership

This award is a coveted recognition that celebrates the exceptional leadership skills, strategic thinking, and visionary guidance demonstrated by the head of a local authority.

The accolade showcases the pivotal role of the chief executive in driving innovation, building community partnerships, and ensuring efficient administration. By acknowledging their achievements, this award encourages chief executives to continue pushing boundaries, leading by example, and setting new benchmarks for performance and public service.

In my view, local government chief executives are some of the most unsung heroes in public service. The judging panel this year were unanimous in recognising that all the finalists were incredible senior leaders, but felt the winner, Kate Kennally from Cornwall Council, was able to demonstrate immense dedication, commitment, and hard work in providing innovative and creative solutions to all communities in the county.

Recognising leadership through awards benefits the entire local government system. Firstly, it promotes a positive and healthy work culture by appreciating and valuing the efforts of leaders and their teams. This, in turn, enhances employee engagement, job satisfaction, and overall productivity. Secondly, it attracts and retains top talent, as potential leaders are drawn to organisations that prioritise recognition and reward outstanding performance. Thirdly, these awards provide opportunities for knowledge sharing and best practices, as recipients are often invited to share their expertise and experiences. Lastly, recognising exceptional leadership builds trust and credibility with the public, reinforcing the notion that local governments are dedicated to efficient governance and community welfare.

These awards in local government not only acknowledge past accomplishments but also inspire innovation and continuous improvement. By highlighting exemplary practices, leaders are encouraged to think creatively, embrace new ideas, and find innovative solutions to complex challenges.

In summary, recognising leadership through awards is crucial in local government as it instils a sense of pride, fosters a culture of excellence, and inspires continuous improvement. The Senior Leadership Team and Chief Executive of the Year awards provide well deserved recognition to exceptional leaders and their teams, setting a benchmark for success and encouraging others to follow suit, and Penna is privileged to be able to celebrate the best of the best.

We are already looking forward to next year’s Awards where we will be proud sponsors of not two, but three categories: Chief Executive, Senior Leadership Team and Council of the Year.

In 2024 Penna celebrates 50 golden years of supporting talent acquisition, development and leadership; and we look forward to continuing to shine a light on the great work done by the public sector, a sector we’re proud to support and partner with, for years to come.

Dawar Hashmi is director of executive search at