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The key to success

Written by: Frazer Thouard is a partner with GatenbySanderson’s local government practice
Published on: 10 Jul 2024

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of local government, senior managers are often at the forefront of driving change, implementing policies, and ensuring the smooth running of essential services. However, amid the complexity and pressure of their roles, these leaders must sustain the sense of purpose in their work.

Having a clear purpose not only fuels motivation but also enhances job satisfaction and overall effectiveness.

The importance of purpose

Purpose is the intrinsic motivation that drives individuals to pursue their goals and aspirations. It is the reason behind the work we do and the impact we strive to make. For senior managers in local government, having a sense of purpose means understanding the broader mission of their role and how it contributes to the wellbeing of the community.

A well-defined purpose provides direction and clarity, guiding decision-making processes and prioritising tasks. When senior managers are aligned with the goals and values of their organisation, they are more likely to stay committed and resilient, even in the face of challenges. Purpose becomes the anchor that keeps them grounded and focused on their objectives, ensuring they remain steadfast in their pursuit of excellence.

Conversely, the absence of purpose or a lack of clarity around purpose can have detrimental effects on motivation and performance. When senior managers do not have a clear sense of why they are doing their job, it can lead to feelings of disengagement and burnout. The day to day responsibilities may start to feel like a series of monotonous tasks rather than meaningful contributions. The ‘why’ is missing. Their role becomes unimaginably harder without the ‘why’ and ‘what for’.

Without a sense of purpose, it becomes challenging to maintain enthusiasm and drive. This can result in decreased productivity, lower morale, and a higher likelihood of seeking employment elsewhere. For local authorities, this means a potential loss of experienced and skilled leaders who are crucial to the stability and progress of the organisation. It can also mean the loss of rising talent, and tomorrow’s leaders, something no one can currently afford to do in the well-publicised battle for talent.

Identifying your purpose

Identifying my purpose led me to where I work today. I knew I wanted to create an impact far beyond the individual appointments I led. For me, it has always been about the lasting impact of my appointments, not just the appointment itself.

Having worked for my last firm for 12 years, collaboration was key. I’m used to working as ‘one team’ to deliver the best possible outcomes for customers and knew I could not thrive in  a siloed organisation. I knew that I do not like mundane tasks and that I am not motivated by doing the same thing repeatedly. I needed an organisation comfortable reimagining itself and doing things differently, pushing the boundaries of what it has done before: comfortable being uncomfortable. I knew that I cared about society and about improving the lives of others through my work. I can honestly say, I have not looked back.

For senior managers contemplating their next career move within local government, it is imperative to take the time to reflect on what truly drives them. Identifying a personal purpose involves introspection and understanding one’s values, passions, and long-term goals.

Consider the following questions:

• What are the core values that guide your professional decisions?
• What impact do you want to have on your community?
• What type of work brings you the most satisfaction and fulfilment?
• How do your skills and experiences align with your desired purpose?

Taking the time to reflect on these questions offers senior managers greater self-awareness for the next stage of their career, helping to identify the right job opportunities in terms of both skills and alignment to personal and professional aspirations. This exercise can also be a great way to redefine your current organisational relationship, enabling a reset of expectations, goals, ambitions, and direction.

It’s easy to lose the sense of purpose when the demands of the day job take over.

The role of mentorship and continuous learning

Mentorship and continuous learning play crucial roles in helping senior managers discover and refine their purpose. Engaging with mentors who have navigated similar career paths can provide valuable insights and guidance. Mentors can help identify strengths, offer new perspectives, and support the alignment of personal and professional goals.

Additionally, continuous learning ensures senior managers stay updated with the latest trends and best practices in local government. This ongoing education can help them better understand the evolving needs of the community and adapt their leadership strategies accordingly.

The benefits of purpose-driven leadership

Purpose-driven leadership in local government can create a ripple effect throughout the organisation. Leaders who are clear about their purpose can inspire their teams, fostering a culture of motivation and engagement. This leadership style encourages employees to connect their roles to the larger mission of the organisation, leading to higher levels of commitment and productivity.

Moreover, purpose-driven leaders are often more innovative and adaptable. They are willing to explore new ideas and take calculated risks to achieve their goals. This adaptability is particularly important in local government, where changing policies and community needs require flexible and forward-thinking approaches.

The role of executive search firms

Working with an executive search firm will support your quest to find a purpose-driven role. We at GatenbySanderson specialise in matching candidates with organisations that align with their values and objectives.

A reputable executive search firm should take the time to understand the purpose and objectives of both the candidates and the clients they serve. They should be able to articulate this clearly and concisely. They should provide honest and impartial advice, helping senior managers navigate the complex landscape of local government careers.

By partnering with an executive search firm that embodies these qualities, senior managers can increase their chances of finding a role that aligns with their purpose and sets them up for long-term success.

To anyone wanting to better navigate their career, enhance job satisfaction and contribute to the well-being of communities, here are my tips: identify your purpose, engage in continuous learning, seek mentorship and partner with the right executive search firm.

Frazer Thouard is a partner with GatenbySanderson’s local government practice