The Light and Shade of Collective Leadership

I am delighted to see the development work for our Illuminating Leadership Festival reach such an exciting point.  As we approach the end of another difficult year, and with the challenges of the new variant of Covid generating new concerns and anxieties, it feels important to create some space and time early in the new year for colleagues to come together around the issues that are really important, to connect and reflect together.

We recently had a meeting of our Collective Leadership Steering Group and I was struck by many aspects of the conversation and the many incongruities that we are trying to make sense of.  The Festival invites us to explore the light and shade of collective leadership. This focus on opposites seemed to permeate many aspects of our discussion, recognising that with opportunity there is often challenge.

Digital illustration of a blue and white striped lighthouse, radiating a warm orange light beam. It is night time and the lighthouse sits on a rock in a calm warm blue sea, with simple mountain and cloud outlines in the background.
Illuminating Leadership Logo Illustration

We are increasingly aware of the extreme difficulties experienced by many colleagues who seek to deliver public services in a system which is in desperate need of transformation.  The pressure to keep going is relentless and every day can highlight the need for radical change and a fundamental shift to prevention.  It can feel impossible to begin to imagine transformation when the needs and demands to deliver just keep growing.

We fully understand the importance of the Covid recovery strategy and really welcome the central emphasis it places on collaborative working and collective leadership, but this often sits with a strong focus on delivery and pace, fuelling and reinforcing ways of working that struggle to be reflective, participative or inclusive.

Collective Leadership is often highlighted as being at the heart of what is needed for these times, but we still tend to see a strong focus on individual and sector-specific leadership development.  We need to think creatively about how our resourcing systems can evolve to support system-focussed collective leadership.

With all of this very much in mind, the focus for Illuminating Leadership seems even more timely and fitting than I had realised.  It is an invitation for us to explore together what it means to navigate the incongruities and paradoxes, the light and the shade, that we face in our work and to discern together what approaches to leadership will serve us well for the work that needs doing.

I look forward to the richness and depth of the conversations that will take place.  I also look forward to the connections and possibilities that will emerge.

We will be sharing a series of blog posts from a range of colleagues and partners in the run-up to the Festival.  I hope you will enjoy reading them and that you will feel stimulated to get involved.

Janet Whitley

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