An introduction to public leadership
An introduction to public leadership

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An introduction to public leadership

3.3 Leadership for collaboration and partnership

Collaboration is not easy and is not just about seeking out a ‘win-win’ for everyone. Where public matters are concerned, outcomes and priorities, and even how problems are tackled, may vary across different parts of the public (e.g. how much force, how much regulation, how much invasion of privacy is seen as acceptable?). Depending on how the problem is framed, more or less of the burden of solving the problem will be laid on different shoulders.

Barbara Gray (1989) described collaboration as the process through which two or more actors engage in a constructive management of differences in order to define common problems and develop joint solutions based on provisional agreements that may co-exist with disagreement and dissent. This definition allows for the existence and sometimes the constructive role of conflict in trying to tackle problems. It means a leader needs to be politically astute in order to understand those differences and to be able to craft ways of seeing and dealing with problems.

In his book Understanding Public Leadership, Paul ’t Hart (2014) argues that this puts the leader less in a position of authority over others (vertical line management, for example) and more having to exercise horizontal leadership, operating through influence, persuasion and negotiation, and working to convene the appropriate groups to address the problem. This is a very different form of leadership where leadership may have to be exercised in situations where no-one is wholly in charge, and where interdependent action from the private, public and voluntary sectors may be needed.

We conclude our study of public leadership by returning to the theme of public value, and how it may be created or enhanced through collaboration between different areas of the public services. At various points in this course, our panel of police leaders have made reference to this, but here they emphasise how vital collaboration is for effective public leadership that delivers public value.

Download this video clip.Video player: ou_futurelearn_police_vid_1050.mp4
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The challenges in our communities aren't exclusively about law enforcement. Many of the issues we deal with are public health issues. Violent crime is a public health issue. Poverty is a public health issue. These all contribute to crime in our communities, and the policing solution isn't the only solution. And it may momentarily deal with offenders and offending behaviour, but if we are to truly keep communities safe and be effective leaders, we need solutions that are sustainable, that are resilient, and that become the norm in our communities and in our society.
It's quite tricky to be able to mobilise other agencies to work together, but I do think, again, this comes back to that austerity being an opportunity. The first bit that kind of pre-empts that, though, is that you need to have a relationship. So if the first time that you ever pick the phone up is when you've got a problem, then generally you have a real problem and there's an old expression, which I've used frequently since my time as a contingency planner, which is, the time to learn to dance isn't when the music starts.
So it's really, really important that before you need to do business, you have a relationship. You know who the other people are that are moving in the spheres and what spheres they're moving in. You know what they're interested in. You're able to think beyond your own particular part of the world and have an appreciation of where they're coming from, what they're seeking to achieve. And you need to have that ability to have a dialogue with them.
We seem to go out on a limb at times. So in terms of collaborative working, very often people level an accusation that we don't understand how policing works. They seem to work almost in a silo.
So in terms of social work, health work, the work of local government, local councils, the police were somewhat stuck out there on their own doing their own thing. And I think the evidence base now because of the common language that it provides us to speak about, it gives other organisations more confidence in what we're doing.
If there is a willingness at senior level, then a lot of public sector bodies are still quite hierarchical so if you are prepared - if you've got the relationships at senior level, and your senior-level leaders are sufficiently motivated and sufficiently authentic to really push the cultural change that's required, you can achieve that leverage that you need to be able to make it happen on a day-to-day basis operationally on the front line.
It is about policing holistically. It is about policing that is grounded in an understanding, an intimate understanding of our communities. Our community challenges, poverty, education, exclusion.
I say to my teams and officers now that when we knock on a door in one of our London boroughs that actually behind those doors are, increasingly, people that may have been trafficked, peoples whose presence in this space may not be legitimate, people who may have been forced into a marriage, people and young women that are having children and that are children themselves. And that the only way the evidence tells us for us to keep them safe is to work and safeguard them and to work in a multi-agency approach to actually protect them, to keep them safe.
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