Stephen Brookes on how ego is the biggest barrier to collective leadership and we should consider personal interest as secondary to that of the public good while implementing the STPs

Stephen brookes

Stephen Brookes

Stephen Brookes

It has been interesting to read some of the more recent articles in HSJ in relation to the development (or not) of trusting collaborative arrangements in the introduction of Sustainability and Transformation Plans.

In the HSJ of 23 February, Jon Bunn argued that “NHS officials are ‘treated like idiots’ by councils in STP process” on the one hand, whilst Simon Stevens argues that STPs are likely to replace the purchaser-provider split, on the other hand (HSJ, 27 February, Rebecca Thomas and Dave West).

Implementation is important

The challenge is clear in the latest article in which Dave West reports that STPs are asked for “credible” implementation plans to turn proposals into action and reconcile them with contracts and financial targets (28 February).

The challenges presented by the roll-out of the STPS, remind me of the same experience when – in 1998 – following the implementation of the Crime and Disorder Act, each Local Authority in England and Wales was given the responsibility to formulate and implement a strategy to reduce crime and disorder in their area

I have been engaged in working with NHS leaders now for just over 11 years, as an academic (with much practical public leadership experience), and many more years before that, as both a regionally based Home Office senior civil servant and a senior police officer.

The challenges presented by the roll-out of the STPS, remind me of the same experience when – in 1998 – following the implementation of the Crime and Disorder Act, each Local Authority in England and Wales was given the responsibility to formulate and implement a strategy to reduce crime and disorder in their area, working with every police authority, probation authority, health authority, social landlords, the voluntary sector, and local residents and businesses.

Known as Community Safety Partnerships, the aim was to encourage a partnership approach in tackling crime and disorder within all local authority areas and each local authority – with the local authority acting as “first amongst equals” – being required to produce a Crime and Disorder Strategy; in effect, this is the same vehicle as the STPs.

At the time of its implementation, I was a police divisional commander in a challenging multiethnic area of Leicester, and had introduced a community-based model of policing, adopting the principles of problem-oriented policing, then a purely Amercian concept.

Shortly after, I was asked to lead Leicestershire Constabulary’s approach to the implementation of the Crime and Disorder Act in 1998, followed later by my role in leading a national review of community safety arrangements on behalf of Sir Keith Povey, Her Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary.

Leadership challenges

Sir Keith’s report, at the beginning of the Millenuium (entitled Calling Time on Crime) drew attention to the real leadership challenges that lay ahead in working collaboratively in seeking to secure socially desirable outcomes. Almost 20 years later, these challenges remain, not least of which is the failure to develop shared systems of data exchange and joint intelligence, shared tasking and coordination of activities and, most importantly, the failure to leave ‘Egos’ at the door of collaborative activities.

Commissioners can also work with Health and Well-Being Partnerships, in the same way that I advocate for police and crime commissioners, but only if this trust is nurtured and maintained

The introduction of police and crime commissioners provided a real opportunity to democratise policing; alas, this has not happened. The CSPs remain somewhat distinct from the PCCs. There is a real opportunity for police and crime commissioners to work with the CSPs in bringing the voice of the public to centre of policing strategies; some work with CSPs better than others but there is a clear lack of consistency across the country.

I cannot help feeling that the same is going to happen with STPs. Rob Whiteman, who is chair of the north-east London STP, said some NHS officials had reported being spoken to like “an idiot” and called for an end to this approach encouraging local government to “love your NHS, trust them, work with them”.

Commissioners can also work with Health and Well-Being Partnerships, in the same way that I advocate for police and crime commissioners, but only if this trust is nurtured and maintained.

I can remember my challenges as a police commander in the late 1990’s. The biggest barrier to collective leadership is that of a three-lettered word – Ego! Organisations also have egos. Leave this at the door and lead in the public interest! This means that we consider our personal interest as secondary to that of the public good. Is that not what democracy is about?

Dr Stephen Brookes QPM FCMI FRSA is a senior fellow at the University of Manchester, Alliance Business School. He has had a long and distinguished career in a number of public leadership roles, including the Royal Navy, the Police Service, Regional and Local Government and, during the last 11 years, as an academic (or what he prefers to refer to as a pracademic) as a senior fellow in Public Policy and Leadership. He is the author of the Selfless Leader, published by Palgrave Macmillan in January 2016 and is the editor in chief of the International Journal of Public Leadership.