The music industry and the wider world gets over excited about a new David Bowie single. The main reason seems to be no one saw it coming after all he hasn’t produced anything in the last ten years. Now the public sector seeks to revive one of his greatest hits with a return to heroic leadership. The conference like the song claims we can all be heroes. The promotional material speaks of the battles that have taken place and the battles to come, battles that have left many managers feeling bruised, demoralised and overstretched. The rallying cry is heroic leadership is not an optional extra. Which like the Bowie single is a bit of a surprise because that idea has long been out of fashion amongst management consultants and leadership gurus. In fact once the golden years of budget growth were replaced by dramatic budget cuts then there were bound to be changes in leadership style.
Whilst some shouted rebel rebel against the cuts others said we should look to the USA follow the example of success in the private sector delivered by young Americans with names like Ziggy or Jean Genie. Of course to most mangers brought up under a public sector ethos this was totally alien like life on Mars. What works in suffragette city isn’t going to work in Swindon Town.
The era of the charismatic leader who by sheer force of personality made things happen is dead so ashes to ashes what we require now is all managers to be leaders. This does not mean managers need to seek fame by giving interviews to the local media they just need to inspire their staff, to make them feel good about the job again. If this requires all managers to play a bit of mood music then I say let’s dance.
Blair McPherson author of Equipping manager for an uncertain future published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson.co.uk