The public sector should blow its own trumpet, says mandarin

15 Jun 00
The public sector must stop seeing leadership skills as a personality defect, Cabinet secretary Sir Richard Wilson told CIPFA delegates on June 14.

16 June 2000

Leadership has never been a fashionable concept in the public sector, according to Wilson, but he believes it is essential to produce good services. 'We tend to think of ourselves as the people who move the furniture between the scenes, not the people who play Hamlet,' he said.

He added that the public sector should avoid the cult of the individual witnessed in the political arena, but added: 'I am convinced there is a model of leadership in the public sector which we need to train people in.'

Wilson said better leadership and management, as well as 'old-fashioned fairness and honesty', were the tools which public servants needed to succeed in an age when their 'consumers' are demanding more.

Wilson, the head of the home civil service, told delegates that attitudes have changed dramatically in a single generation.

He said: 'Their parents and grandparents were prepared to see services as a favour bestowed by the state. These people compare what they can get from local government, central government and the private sector. They demand better services backed by fewer resources.'

Wilson also implored public servants to find ways of celebrating their successes, such as the contributions they have made to the Northern Ireland peace process and their role in setting up the auctions for the third generation mobile phone licences.

'All too often we ignore these achievements,' he said. 'I want this conference to inaugurate a new era in which we sing the praises of the public services.

'We ought to have a sense of pride in what we do.'


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