Exclusive: Chief execs' survey highlights tensions of 'challenging politics'

By Michael Burton | 17 July 2019

Tensions between chief executives and their leaders are under greater scrutiny because of ‘challenging politics,’ a survey by Penna and The MJ has found.

Among the top attributes needed for a successful chief executive, resilience was named number one while interacting with councillors was also viewed as a focal part of the job.

The latest annual leadership survey of chief executives added: ‘A number of chief executives mentioned navigating the civic element of council life had created one of their biggest personal learning developments. With a fresh new intake of politicians stepping into cabinets countrywide following the local elections this learning will be put to the test for chief executives during the remainder of 2019.’

Penna managing director Julie Towers said: ‘With such challenging and changing politics it is inevitable that the connection between the administration and leader and chief executive officer is under more scrutiny. Alignment of values and vision, ability to speak truth to power, and the cultural fit and mutual respect between politicians and officers is, once again, under the spotlight.’

Buy-in to change was considered fundamental by survey respondents, who said senior and middle managers needed to ‘own the culture too and [recognise] that their actions set the culture’.

Survey respondents also said vital change in the public sector had been slowed by ‘negative attitudes and paralysis from extraordinary pressures’ and ‘unrealistic and short-term timescales’ - and there were ‘too few budgets to better brand the organisation’.

The other key attributes cited by chief executives were ‘waking the talk,’ having a narrative on place, outlining a clear vision, networking and system leadership.

Leadership survey 2019

Analysis: 'Extraordinary pressures' call for extraordinary resilience

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