What has the NLC learned, and what will be new?

In response to the innovative stories featured throughout the report, the NLC is refreshing and adapting its support to help CEOs lead the national recovery after the pandemic. This includes redesigned leadership programmes, new events for Chief Executive Officer-level leaders, and more ways to build deep cross-sector relationships.

Creating the Public Leaders Report 2021 has been a cross-sector effort. Throughout the report, we’ve heard stories and insights that can help any CEO and team. To quote Carol Matthews in her interview for Portraits of Public Service Leaders, “it’s been an extraordinary moment of seeing the very best of people.”

We’ve heard leaders describing the significant changes they’ve made to how they provide services to the public, things which wouldn’t have felt possible in February 2020. 

We’ve heard how critical personal relationships have been and how important external structures were to provide the support to make them flourish.

We’ve heard about the difficulties of having to lead in a command and control style. Leaders have described the challenge of judging a course of action in a crisis – particularly such a pervasive and deeply personal one like COVID.

And through our work on the report, we’ve heard how important it is for the teams supporting the public sector to act together, and we’ve learned about new ways people are doing this. 

So what are we going to do about this?

But we haven’t just listened; we are acting on what we heard and improving what we do. The innovative stories featured throughout the report have helped NLC refresh its offer to help CEOs lead the national recovery after the pandemic. 

There are five new things we are pleased to announce:

  1. Refreshed leadership programmes – in its second year, our Public Leaders Programme will encourage delegates to apply knowledge and experience through the delivery of group “system improvement projects”. The projects will focus on a national challenge which requires a system wide approach from various public sector organisations across the country.
  2. Expanded calendar of opportunities for the NLC Network – the last year has proven how the public sector benefits from increased connections and collaborations between sectors and leaders. The NLC is uniquely positioned to build on this momentum and to create the space and opportunities for our leaders to connect with peers, broaden their cross-sector policy knowledge, reflect on their own leadership experiences, and influence how policy is made and delivered. Through an annual calendar of opportunities, including a return to in-person events, the NLC will develop a broader offer to meet the differing needs of our members, wherever they are in their leadership journey, and as their needs evolve over time. 
  3. Public sector CEO connections – the NLC will pilot a new scheme to build knowledge and networks among small groups of leaders. This will reinforce those cross-boundary relationships and insights into other perspectives that have been so vital during the pandemic.
  4. New support for future CEOs with disabilities – building on the success of our Accelerate programme for deputy CEO-level leaders of ethnic minority background, the NLC will work with our partners across the public sector to extend its offer to a group of deputy CEO-level leaders with disabilities in 2022. By bringing them into our network events, we hope to help more of the next generation of leaders to make an even bigger difference to the lives of citizens across the country.
  5. Research and joint-team working – the teams supporting Civil Service and public sector leaders are working together to share knowledge, research, and evidence of what works. For the first time, the National Leadership Centre has brought this together in one place with our new Research and Insights Hub. We will expand this in 2022 and make it a feature of how we all deliver.

We will reinvigorate and grow our connections with other public sector leadership academies and partner organisations. Through sharing insights like those featured in this report, as well as delivery plans and our research, we plan to work together to inform and help improve all sector leadership programmes.

Skills, knowledge, and networks

The NLC’s mission remains the same: to help the country’s most senior public service leaders develop the skills, knowledge and networks required to address society’s most complex strategic challenges.

We will always adapt and improve how we deliver this the more we listen to our CEO network. We’re optimistic about the year ahead and what we have planned with our partners. This year, we will help the public sector through a big, bold year, building back better and supporting leaders with the national recovery from the COVID pandemic.

Read the full Public Leaders Report: Supporting the NHS in its hour of need · Collaborating places · Extraordinary resilience and service · What do we know about public sector leaders