Digital transformation needs leaders not managers, says Socitm

Councils need to identify and develop leaders that will offer staff support, rather than control, if they want to succeed at public service reform, according to a report.

Briefing says staff want leadership that supports, rather than controlling, them – Photo credit: Pexels

In its latest briefing, Socitm, the association for IT professionals in the public sector, argues that leaders are needed to sell digital transformation to elected members, partner organisations, influential local groups and vocal campaigners.

The briefing, Developing Digital Leadership, which aims to promote the body’s leadership academy, said that managers may “get things done” but don’t usually set out a vision of what they want or sell it to others.

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Democratisation of the workforce and an increase in flexible working means employees look for leaders who will offer support and guidance, not control, it said.

“They want to see a compelling, shared vision, not a straitjacket of bureaucracy and constraints, so that they can best self-direct their own efforts to the desired ends,” it stated.

Socitm said that digital leaders need to do more than just understanding the potential of new technologies – they must also be able to see how to make the most of those technologies in the context of their city or region.

“Then they need to find among their colleagues people to share the vision and turn it into reality, providing them with ongoing support and energy, ensuring that the negativity of naysayers does not derail the initiative,” the body said.

The briefing sets out the qualities it associates with good leadership, such as being open minded, analytical, credible and calm under pressure, but said that leadership is more than a check-list of technical skills, describing it as being “closer to an art form”.

It follows a number of other reports and position statements from the group that have called for digital leaders to address the way councils structure their workforces.

This includes calling for senior leaders to become role models for better use of technology and branding top-down, rigid management hierarchies as “unsustainable” systems that could stifle innovation.


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