Digital blog image July18

Citizens are showing increasing concern about public services and the certainty of future provision[1]. Public sector productivity is now estimated at a lower level than in 2015[2]. The traditional boundaries of public, private and third sector are increasingly irrelevant, with all now involved in public service delivery.  Today’s public service leaders need much more support to lead services across boundaries in a dynamic and volatile context.

The Centre for Public Services Leadership  should make a significant contribution to enhancing this capability. The concept behind the Centre is that there is a need for step change in how we build a pipeline of leaders ready for principle executive responsibility. Specifically, a development focus that enables leaders to work effectively across complex systems to deliver outcomes in new ways and improve the quality of services.

We have seen through our own work on the ground with senior leaders across public services that delivering an innovative, context-driven approach to development is key to delivering real improvement in the sector.

What is a context-driven approach? 

Traditional leadership programmes are often built around individual capability development. Learners go through each skill area learning new concepts, theories and models, and then are assessed on their ability to grasp the concepts, link theory to practice and communicate their arguments clearly. 

One of the earliest pieces of Deloitte Leadership thinking on teams that work, highlighted the importance of high performing teams doing real work together and learning from it[3].  The Deloitte Leadership approach to developing “future-ready” leaders builds on research into adult learning, psychology and neuroscience and focuses on how learners think, as much as what they do[4].  A context-driven approach offers a unique opportunity to focus on specific leadership challenges relating to “place”, build a collaborative leadership team across boundaries and focus on a citizen-centred approach. This is crucial for driving culture change across public services, enabling integration, helping to drive up productivity and unlock innovation.

Our latest research of public service perspectives, supports the point of view that more is needed to support collaborative and adaptable delivery. Specifically, we heard that[5]:

  • Over 60% of public surveyed believe joined-up working between the public services is most likely to improve quality of service, cost efficiency and accountability to the public;
  • While previously austerity had been seen by many public sector leaders as challenging but a driver of innovation and creativity in their organisations, in 2018, we heard that austerity has taken its toll and that cuts to local government are having unintended consequences in other parts of the public services such as health and policing;
  • Several leaders saw a long-term lack of investment in leadership development, in its broadest sense, in parts of public services leading to the current “shrunken talent pool” and difficulties in recruitment to top jobs.

The Centre’s contribution will be key to delivering a shift in how senior public service leaders think about their role and build a willingness and ability to collaborate with others in delivering context-based leadership to drive value for citizens.

[1] Deloitte report, The State of the State 2018-19
[2] Office of National Statistics, 2018
[3] “Teams that work”, Deloitte 2007
[4] “Building future ready leaders”, Deloitte 2018
[5] Deloitte report, The State of the State 2018-19

Better Public Services Report by the Public Services Leadership Taskforce

Adam King

Adam King, Senior Director, Deloitte

Adam King is Head of Public Sector Leadership, Learning, Talent and Reward.  He works with senior public sector clients on the delivery of their most important leadership challenges, with a particular focus on leadership assessment and development, capability building within government and transformation support.


Rachel Childs, Manager, Deloitte

Rachel Childs delivers strategic leadership and talent projects for public sector clients. She delivers leadership development interventions to support effective delivery through transformation and works with senior leadership teams to create enhanced talent solutions to support the organisation’s future vision.


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