Archive for the 'Business and Management' Category

Southgate offers solutions for local leadership

Robin Hambleton portrait pic

Robin Hambleton

By Robin Hambleton

Originally published by Local Government Chronicle on 12 July 2018.

The disappointment of England losing the World Cup semi-final to Croatia last week does not undermine the fact that Gareth Southgate has raised the bar for international football management.


His calm and self-effacing manner, coupled with his inspirational leadership, has won admiration from football fans in many countries.

Here in England Southgate has become an enormously popular public figure. His influence already extends well beyond the world of sport, not least because of the rapid expansion of the hilarious Twitter movement ‘GarethSouthgateWould’, which provides hundreds of amusing suggestions on ‘What Gareth would do’ in all manner of situations.

Can we draw any lessons for local leadership from the ‘Southgate approach’ to leadership and management?

Some will answer ‘no’. They will argue that managing a national football team is entirely different from exercising effective place-based leadership. For a start the overall objectives of leadership are far more straightforward in sports management. The metrics for measuring success are pretty clear – basically adhere to the rules of the game and win against opponents.

In contrast, local leaders are required to pursue multiple objectives and respond creatively to a wide range of expectations and pressures. The metrics for measuring performance are contested and power struggles between competing interests are endemic. Moreover, different interests will disagree over whether a given policy outcome is good, bad or indifferent.

“I believe that the ‘Southgate approach’ to leadership provides three pointers for local government politicians and managers.”

Notwithstanding these important differences I believe that the ‘Southgate approach’ to leadership provides three pointers for local government politicians and managers.

First, his leadership style is collaborative. Fabio Capello, England manager from 2008-2012, was, for sure, previously an exceptionally talented footballer and a successful club coach. But his leadership approach was very top-down. Indeed, he had a reputation as a disciplinarian and was criticised for not allowing his senior players to have tactical input. As England manager he was less than successful.

The leadership approach adopted by Gareth Southgate could hardly be more different. He is very strong on listening and on motivating the whole squad, coaches and staff.

For example, in interviews he almost invariably refers to the important contribution of players in the squad who have not appeared on the pitch, explaining that their solid commitment to work on the training ground enables whoever ends up playing for England to be better than they otherwise would have been.

Second, Southgate is emotionally intelligent. He understands that leadership is first and foremost about feelings, and he recognises that successful leaders need to make an emotional connection. His leadership approach has shown that if people are respected and feel valued they can perform at an unprecedented level.

“His success in enabling such a young team to perform so well stems from the way he has cultivated a culture of common commitment and an emphasis on positivity.”

His success in enabling such a young team to perform so well stems from the way he has cultivated a culture of common commitment and an emphasis on positivity. In interviews and discussion he demonstrates not only his advanced tactical knowledge of football but, just as important, he comes across as warm, light hearted and liberating.

It is possible that you could say the same about Sven-Goran Erikkson, England manager from 2002-2006. While the Swedish manager was always courteous and friendly, he was criticised for being unenthusiastic on the touchline. His deliberate ‘ice cool Sven’ body language backfired.

In contrast, Southgate knows when to damp down the feelings on the touchline. But he also knows that it is important for the manager to let it all out when the team does well. Southgate is certainly soft-spoken but he can also shout very loudly when the occasion demands.

Third, Southgate recognises that effective leaders do not simply focus on the leadership of their own organisation. In more than one interview he has noted how proud he is to be “part of a team that has a chance to affect things that are bigger than football”.

By his squad and team selections, as well as through his personal leadership style, Southgate is contributing to the national debate about what it means to be English in 2018. It would be misguided to believe that a successful multi-ethnic national football team can put an end to racism in any given society, but sport can play a role in shaping national feelings of identity. Southgate is very aware of this and believes that football can play a role in uniting people.

“My definition of leadership is ‘shaping emotions and behaviour to achieve common goals’. “

My definition of leadership is ‘shaping emotions and behaviour to achieve common goals’. This definition draws attention to how people feel, and it emphasises the collective construction of common purpose.

Many political and managerial leaders in local government now recognise the importance of the three ‘Southgate approach’ criteria. They are committed to collaboration; they are emotionally intelligent; and they are fully aware of the larger purposes guiding their leadership efforts.

My suggestion is that even the most accomplished place-based leaders can learn from studying how Gareth Southgate leads the English national football team.


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Feature Image by Антон Зайцев, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Exploring the quiet revolution of mission-driven millennials


Asheem Singh

An interview with Asheem Singh, author of The moral marketplace, originally published by Pro Bono News on 7th February 2018.

“A global generation of youthful social entrepreneurs is on the march, according to the author behind a new book exploring how social enterprise is driving mass political and social change.

Asheem Singh is an international activist, social entrepreneur, journalist and formerly the youngest ever CEO of leading UK charity leaders body Acevo.

In his new book The Moral Marketplace: How Mission-Driven Millennials and Social Entrepreneurs Are Changing Our World, he argues that the rapid global growth of social enterprise over the last decade has been a “quiet revolution” of “mission driven millennials”.

He told Pro Bono News social enterprise had come to dominate thinking when it comes to how social innovation happens.

“The Moral Marketplace is my term for a number of independent, grassroots business type organisations that have grown up over the past decade, and they have grown at pace,” Singh said.

Watch Asheem Singh answer the question ‘What is social enterprise?’ in this great video.

“They have begun to really dominate our thinking when it comes to how social innovation happens, how doing good happens … and there are all sorts of different kinds of organisations that come within the banner.

“What has been really cool to see, is so many, what I call mission driven millennials, enter the marketplace and set up their own social enterprises. You see it all over the world, you see it in Australia as well. There are so many fantastic, inspirational young people who say, ‘I don’t want to just do nine to five, I don’t want to just work hard for some faceless corporation and give back to charity, I want to make the object of my life doing good, as well as doing well’.”

In his book, Singh uses examples from around the world, giving first-hand accounts of social innovation in India, movements built to counter cultures of abuse and rape in Zimbabwe and exploring how entrepreneurs selling ethical products across Europe and America have proliferated.

He said the founders of the social enterprise movement were “very much not millennials”, but it was a model that resonated with younger generations.

“I don’t think we’ve seen yet the full potential of this incredible generation being tapped.”

“My book opens with a guy called Vinod Kapur, he is an Indian guy, I think he is past 70 now, he has been working in the villages for years, and he found that women in Indian villages were abused, they had no capital of their own, they had no way out of their own situation and that was because they couldn’t rear their own livestock, conditions were too harsh. So he spent 20 years, breeding a chicken that could survive in the most distant and most remote of Indian villages and by doing that he managed to reach out and find groups of women who could benefit from this innovation and over 10, 20 years, he managed to create the most incredible business called Keggfarms whose principle goal is not just the rearing of chickens and the production of eggs for India’s middle class, but actually to empower women. And some of the stories you see and some of things he has done are just incredible, so this guy is not a millennial,” Singh said.

“But what we find is that we’ve reached a sort of critical mass of these stories.

“In an age of social media, information technology, when the foundations for the sharing economy are being set and universities are doing more to spread information about the moral marketplace, people like me are writing books about it, a critical mass of these millennials are being turned on by these stories, they are tuning in and saying ‘you know I want this too’.

“I don’t think we’ve seen yet the full potential of this incredible generation being tapped.”

Startup Stock Photos

Singh said social enterprise was the tool many millennials were using to change the world.

“I think that what you see is in the old days, previous generations they had their thing, they had their way of doing charity, their way of doing good. I think this generation, so generation Y-ers and generation Z-ers, social entrepreneurship is their thing, that is the tool they will use to change the world. To be part of that, as a millennial myself, being part of that is really exciting,” he said.

“I think it is that idea of almost feeling powerful enough to change the world. We live in an age of hashtag activism, which is covered in the book, we live in an age where people are giving us these messages that you too can make a difference, that each of us can make a difference each and every single day, and part of me thinks that message is getting through.

Singh-MoralMarketplace-FC-web“When you hear someone like Muhammad Yunus say that the young people he meets every single day, the young generation are the most socially conscious generation, the least selfish generation we have ever encountered, it flies in the face of everything you hear about young people. We hear that they’re snowflakes, we hear that they’re self obsessed, they live in a selfie culture and the rest of it, and some of these things to an extent among certain people are true, but I think there are also real sense of wanting to do good and social entrepreneurship being a tool with which they can do that.”

He said he was sceptical about interpretations that millennials were “the have your cake and eat it generation” who wanted to feel like they can make money and do good at the same time.

“I think that is the Gen X and baby boomers’ interpretation of what has happened here,” Singh said.

“The young people who are getting into the space that I have seen are not in this for themselves, they are in this to make a difference because that is what they care about.

“This idea of enlightened self interest, it is a very kind of 1950s value and I just think we’ve moved on, I think people genuinely feel in an age of disconnection, of alienation, of loneliness, of urban alienation, I think they feel that they want to reach out to community and build their own community and try and help people.

“A lot of the social enterprises that I see are about getting elderly lonely people and bringing them into the community. There is a great one called GoodGym here in London there is a running group, where the route for the runners goes along houses of elderly people who are lonely and don’t have any family. So the runners, stop in, drop off a paper and then carry on. They get fit, they do some good, this is not about enlightened self interest, this is about building community and I think millennial realise, what we lost through the selfish years, the ‘Ateful Eighties’ as we call them… was that sense of connection, connectivity, community, and I think social entrepreneurship is to them a way of rekindling that flame.”

In the book Singh distinguishes between two kinds of social entrepreneurs.

“I talk about what I call incubated social entrepreneurs, which is the kind of the classic Harvard grad who has had a very privileged life, who then goes to Kenya and says ‘I want to help these Kenyan farmers because I am great’. And sometime they do great stuff and sometimes they really help, there are some great examples of those kinds of social enterprises in the book, I think that is fantastic. I am all for that. I am so glad they are doing that and not ruining the world by joining some investment bank or making arms to sell to a war zone,” Singh said.

“But what I would say are the more radical and more exciting social enterprises for me are those ones that are fed-up by what I call the people living at the bottom of the pyramid, so they are bottom pyramid social enterprises.

“They are the ones where you have got someone living in a disadvantaged situation, a difficult circumstance, they have suffered and they say ‘I am never going to let that happen to anyone ever again, I am damn well going to set up something which changes the situation’. It might be something completely stupid like a waste management system because someone they know died of cholera, but that is an act of social entrepreneurship and is every bit as valuable as the mega chicken that Vinod Kapur produced, or the really cool tech for good apps that all these Harvard grads are producing.”

But Singh said the full potential of social enterprise was not being realised.

In particular he argued that previous and current governments have not done enough to unleash the potential of Britain’s social enterprise community.

He said there was a big debate currently taking place in the UK regarding public service contracting, that was being fueled by the collapse of Carillon.

“Government outsourcing megaliths like Carillon, who rinse the public for profit, are the antithesis of the moral marketplace of social enterprises,” Singh said.

“Our public services are a ticking time bomb as a result of contracts made with companies like Carillion. The government’s regrettable indifference to the real potential of social enterprise to reform public services and place social value at their heart – if it continues – will only result in waste and misery. I trust that Carillion’s collapse will be the stimulus for radical change.”

Among 30 policy ideas included in The Moral Marketplace Singh has suggested a “community first” test for public service contracting, which urged government to privilege purpose-driven, socially-minded organisations over private sector businesses when tendering for public services.

“It is about putting organisations with social purpose, social value at their heart, and saying we’re going to give you a chance to get this contract first before we turn to anyone else. Just something simple like that can really empower, from the government perspective, these organisations. From our perspective, we the people, we need to be encouraging them to do that,” Singh said.

He said the public should continue to support social enterprises through learning more and buying from organisations in the moral marketplace.

“There is so much we can do as an activated, motivated public. More than ever people are wearing their causes as badges and saying this is what I stand for and I just think we need to get that momentum behind, these amazing people, these mission driven millenials who are saying you know what, I want to change the world.”

He said he hoped his book helped people learn more about social entrepreneurship and offered lessons to people looking to enter the space as well as for officialdom on how to create a consensus that works better for social enterprise.

“If you are someone who cares about doing good and you want to know what good looks like in our time, maybe you have heard about this thing social enterprise but you’re not sure what it looks like, hopefully my book will be able to help you elevate your knowledge and also feel good about what’s happening out there. If I can help more people get more active and more involved then I think the book will have done its job.”

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Why we need social entrepreneurs

Chris Durkin, co-author of Social entrepreneurship; A skills approach, reflects on his experience of redundancy and how the uncertainty it brings is representative of life in the ‘gig economy’. He highlights the urgent need to teach new skills, creativity and resilience and how social entrepreneurs can show us the way.

Christopher Durkin

I have been very lucky throughout my working life and only recently experienced the indignity of being made redundant. What was apparent was that redundancy has a formality, which goes through various stages – notification, ‘consultation’ and final notice – a process that involves you in attending various meetings, both as a group and as an individual.

What sticks out for me on a personal level was that throughout the process there was a high level of uncertainty, a complete loss of confidence and a feeling of anger, loss and failure; feelings that are both natural and individual.

Continue reading ‘Why we need social entrepreneurs’

Who’s to blame for Leicester’s success? #Championes

Today’s guest blog post by author and academic Tim Hillier looks at our reactions to success and failure and why we need to be cautious about rushing to apportion blame when things go wrong…

Tim Hillier

Tim Hillier

The last few weeks have been pretty extraordinary for the people and city of Leicester and in particular the supporters of Leicester City Football Club.  

Since about 9.45pm on Monday 2nd May the city has been in a state of almost permanent euphoria.  As the euphoria subsides many attempt to explain the reasons behind the 5,000-1 outsiders’ triumph.  There has been some inevitable focus on a number of key individuals: manager Caudio Ranieri, players Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, the Thai owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.


More often, however, those attempting to explain have stressed the teamwork, the organisation, the marginal differences made to training or tactics, or diet.  Success tends to be understood in terms of an alignment of a wide range of factors.  Everyone from the CEO to the 8 year old mascot has had a part to play and can take credit from and pride in the success.


Leicester’s state of almost perpetual euphoria

Contrast that to how society reacts to failure.  Every season a large number of football managers lose their jobs, scapegoated for a lack of success on the field. Continue reading ‘Who’s to blame for Leicester’s success? #Championes’

Out of the Dragon’s Den: Self-organising change for a broader vision

Kids at schoolby Philip Woods, Professor of Educational Policy, Democracy and Leadership at the University of Hertfordshire, UK and author of Transforming education policy

It is a familiar observation about education (and other public services) in the UK and internationally, that there has been a move away from a provider role towards a steering role for central authorities – from government to governance – and that this current of change tends to promote economistic goals and managerialist values and procedures.  Less familiar is the argument that as this approach to governance evolves, spaces for progressive change and broader visions of education grow.

The dominant (if not unchallenged) tendency of educational reforms aiding and accompanying the growth of governance over that last three decades or so, in countries such as England, US, Australia and New Zealand, has been to advance instrumentalising trends. That is, they have pressed education in the direction of individualism, markets, promotion of an ‘enterprising self’ and the relentless measurement of people against targets and performance criteria, and they have progressively blurred the boundary between the private and public sectors.

The scale of change is particularly marked in England. The landscape of the English school system has utterly changed over this period of reform. Today, for example,  thousands of schools have or are becoming academies (supposedly more independent) or trust schools (supported by charitable trusts), and over 70 free schools (new state funded schools set up by parents and others) have been opened since 2010.  There is a complex variety of school sponsors and partners connected to these new types of schools, all exerting an influence on state schooling and how public resources are used for the education of students. They include businesses, charities, faith groups, private schools, parent groups, and teachers. The thinking behind this policy is that opening up the state system to new ‘players’ in education will bring in the dynamism and enterprise of the private sector – in other words, it will harness the qualities associated with successful entrepreneurs. More autonomy is promised so that better, innovative ways of running schools and teaching can be introduced.

The problem with this is three-fold. Firstly, autonomy and enterprise are framed in a particular way. The school system is structured within a set of priorities in which the job of education is to forge people in the image required by the economic system (as understood by education policy-makers). In other words, autonomy and enterprise are exercised within an educational policy culture that has a particular view on what it means to be educated. The competitive spirit is privileged: players in the school system are encouraged to concentrate on the interests of their own school or group of schools because that is what they are judged on, rather than the greater good. Secondly, power and opportunity to sponsor and partner schools are not spread evenly. Certain groups – such as some businesses, faith groups, private schools and the well connected – are more able than others to use their financial and cultural muscle to take opportunities to control or set up schools. On top of this, new forms of hierarchy are being set up, which include chains of academies in which the schools and their headteachers are accountable to the heads of the chain. Thirdly, the linear model of controlling education through testing, targeting and inspections – the managerialist approach that has accompanied reforms – is increasingly being found to be limited. The linear model has fundamental difficulties in coping with cultural diversity, in tackling inequality and in effecting sustainable change for the better. In short, its problem is that we are people not machines.

The emerging system, however, is not monolithic. It frames what people do but it does not completely constrain them. The people within the system continually have to look for ways to interpret and shape policies. This is where it is helpful to see the system not simply as linear and hierarchical, but as complex and self-organising. The complex and diverse system of interconnecting organisations, groups, networks and individuals that is developing means that the direction and nature of what goes on within the system is as much about the numerous decisions and interactions that occur daily at all levels.

In this context, creative capabilities and resources can be used to bring about important and challenging changes in the direction and nature of the system. Countering instrumentalising trends are what I term drivers to democracy. These are incentives to bring about change which include the organisational value of more democratic and collaborative styles of working and the intrinsic urge to participate and be heard and to create a life that has deeper meaning. In the spaces and opportunities created by the complex, evolving school system, progressive processes of change are being created which in various ways are about encouraging collaborative learning, a more holistic view of education and schools working co-operatively across and within communities for a greater public good. Examples are at all levels. There are teachers working to make student voice truly participative and to make their classrooms more democratic and engaging environments. A key example is the reshaping of the meaning of entrepreneurialism: this need not be accepted just as the profit-driven, individualistic construction of the self, but can be redefined as a collaborative and ethical endeavour guided by higher values – which numerous schools and teachers are doing. Other examples are sponsors and partners – such as the Co-operative Group, the Steiner movement and the RSA – which are applying a wider vision to create academies and other schools, and networks of schools, that bring to life a deeper understanding of education.

The point is not to wait for progressive change to be mandated from central government; the point is to self-organise change for a broader vision. And to do this by renewing public values and ideals of holistic education and reconfiguring current trends like the promotion of enterprise, in order to create a learning environment that serves students not as instruments but as young people.

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