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Why inclusive leadership is more important than ever

Written by: Rebecca Rampat is Associate Partner and Jonathan Swain is Managing Director at McLean Public.
Published on: 25 May 2023

Local and regional government faces unprecedented challenges. These include economic uncertainty, the need to tackle climate change, acute housing shortages and increasing customer expectations, alongside long-standing financial pressures and jarring inequalities within the communities they serve.

The importance of inclusive leadership during these times has never been so apparent, ensuring people’s needs are met, not just now, but sustainably so for the future.

For as long as there have been leaders in society, there have been those who have tried to determine what works and why. From Machiavelli to Tony Robbins, many people have claimed to be leadership ‘gurus’ in their own right. Local government, though, genuinely does have its own talented experts, and our understanding of leadership best practice improves all the time.

This is especially important given, as the Local Government Association points out: ‘The role of councils is rapidly changing, so are the roles of our officers, managers and chief executives.’

McLean Public is proud of its diverse network of colleagues across local and regional government, so we thought ‘who better to ask about the current inclusive leadership challenges across the sector?’

What follows is a small summary of what they told us.

Diversity and its impact on organisational culture

Including and embracing new perspectives and cultures in organisations is essential to improving the way leaders relate to people both inside and outside the organisation.

Bringing in diverse perspectives not only provides different dimensions on cultures and lifestyles, but also introduces new ways of working and fresh ideas for implementation.

Inspiring all

The ability to inspire and motivate colleagues is key. Understanding the factors that motivate colleagues individually and inspire them to thrive in new opportunities is important, but equally so is empowering people to develop and demonstrate leadership behaviours to both ‘step in’ and ‘step up’ and inspire others.

This will make employees feel more engaged, trusted, and more likely to take ownership of their own leadership journey.

Fostering innovation

Local authorities are constantly under pressure to tackle both long-standing challenges and the unexpected (and we are seeing plenty of the latter).

Local and regional government is witnessing an increased ability to learn from the past and make bolder decisions on anticipating and preparing for future needs by encouraging not just innovative solutions, but also innovative ways of working and co-production with partners, businesses and communities. Since the pandemic, more services are digitally focused – from Zoom meetings being the norm to self-fulfilment of many daily transactions.

This has further increased the impetus to innovate more frequently and to explore fresh ideas that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.

Maximising the leadership opportunities of ‘the new normal’

More organisations are expanding their search for talent as location becomes less relevant due to the progress of technology in the workplace. Teams are able to collaborate more frequently via digital platforms and our experience of the pandemic provided us with the confidence to deliver on long-term and short-term strategies while being disparately located across the UK.

Agile and hybrid working is ‘the new normal’ and many opportunities from this are yet to be fully capitalised on.

A clear vision in an ambiguous world

By all conventional benchmarks, any vision must be compelling to the organisation’s workforce, and it must inspire employees to look forward to contributing at work each day. 

It is also widely agreed that there needs to be a sense of connectedness between the organisational vision and the team members who make it happen. Local government leaders today, however, are being asked to offer vision and lead in a context that is unlike anything experienced before – an environment defined by ongoing uncertainty, conflicting priorities and unprecedented events.

It’s time for leaders to embrace this. The notion of the static vision of the past has gone and constant change is the new status quo. 

Rebecca Rampat is Associate Partner and Jonathan Swain is Managing Director at McLean Public.