People aren’t born great leaders: leadership needs to be learnt. We invest time and money to give our senior people the skills and confidence they need to become effective leaders.
The Civil Service Capability Group (CSCG) in the Cabinet Office is responsible for the corporate development of:
- Permanent Secretaries
- Directors General
- Members of the High Potential Development Scheme.
The CSCG works with the National School of Government (NSG) to provide a suite of programmes for the Senior Civil Service (SCS) that focus on the core skills needed to support delivery, build capability, drive change and improve leadership. These programmes prepare people for the most challenging jobs in the Service.
- High Potential Development Scheme
- Senior Womens’ Network
- Corporate Development Programmes
- SCS Base Camp
To be selected for HPDS, nominees have to have, and to be able to demonstrate, the potential to be:-
a visible leader who inspires trust, taking personal responsibility for delivering results effectively and swiftly, working in teams that are more than the sum of their parts, and across traditional boundaries, focused on strategic outcomes, matching resources to business priorities, honest, courageous and realistic with staff and Ministers, constantly learning.
Selected candidates, at director and deputy director level, are provided with support to develop the behaviours, skills and processes that will build leadership and strategic capability.
The scheme provides these leaders with the opportunity to learn and work together as they explore and address the challenges they collectively face.
A total of 162 participants have been selected by the Senior Leadership Committee since 2004 in four cohorts after highly competitive selection processes. They include lawyers, ambassadors, communication professionals, scientists and accountants as well as corporate, policy and operational delivery experts.
Scheme participants work in around 30 different organisations both large and small – several are gaining experience outside ‘Whitehall’ e.g. secondments to charities, local government, the NHS and international institutions.
HR Directors in departments will be informed by Cabinet Office when another cohort is to be selected.
The Network meets regularly, in an informal setting, to exchange ideas on various business issues and provide support to each other as change leaders. It also offers an opportunity for senior women to discuss and own initiatives, helping them develop their leadership skills.
Achieving our diversity targets
The representation of women at senior level in the Civil Service compares favourably with the private sector, but we are not on track to meet our PSA targets. To do this, we need to have women making up 37% of the Senior Civil Service (SCS) and filling 30% of top management posts by April 2008.
By providing this forum in which senior women can learn from and offer support to each other, the Network can play a key role in helping us reach these targets.
Senior women in the Service will be invited to join the Network. For further information contact:
Our Senior Leadership Committee (SLC) identifies corporate development needs and recommends programmes to address them – using feedback from the capability reviews and the succession planning process.
The Civil Service Capability Group (CSCG) then commissions the relevant programmes, which are delivered by the National School of Government (NSG) and other providers.
Some of the corporate development programmes currently being offered are:
- Top Management Programme – designed for those in senior management positions who have the potential to reach the very highest positions in their organisations.
- Senior Civil Service (SCS) Base Camp – to welcome and orientate new entrants to the SCS, build understanding of the corporate context of leadership and outline what is expected of corporate leaders.
- The High Potential Development Scheme (HPDS) – to prepare people at director and deputy director level for the most senior jobs in the Civil Service.
- Download our booklet about the HPDS
National School of Government [External website]
The three-day course is designed for civil servants recently appointed or promoted to the SCS. It provides newcomers to the SCS with an opportunity to examine what the Service does, the job of leadership and the role of senior civil servants – now and in the future. It also brings to life the Leadership Framework, (link to leadership framework here) which was developed by the Leadership Steering Group and which is now an integral part of SCS performance management.
There will be three or four SCS Base Camps a year. Sign up for one now.[External website]
The first Base Camp event at Sunningdale was a huge success, as we found out from three colleagues lucky enough to be there.
The course combined talks from numerous top civil servants, including Gus O’Donnell, with seminars run by leading consultants and academics. A particularly lively session involved putting people on the spot with a microphone and demanding answers to difficult questions: “So what are you going to do differently on Monday then?” The rest of the three days provided attendees with opportunities to discuss the issues covered and network with their colleagues in the SCS.
A key element of the course was to give people a better understanding of the leadership framework, and how it related to their role. It also focused on some of the main challenges the Service is facing right now, and the importance of corporate leadership to overcoming these.
A running theme, says John Barrett, Deputy Director of Policy and Research at the Department For International Development:
was that we should no longer see ourselves as working just for our home department – we now share the responsibility for shaping and driving the whole public service.
John was particularly impressed by the attitude of everyone on the course, and their willingness to get the most out of the three days.
I was struck by the congeniality and good humour shown by one and all, with a genuine desire to learn, share and support. The commitment to making the Civil Service more effective in the 21st century was tangible.
His colleague Tamsyn Barton, Head of the EU Department, agrees.
Actually the thing I found most striking was the emphasis on developing resilience. In the very first exercise we all learnt how the setbacks in our lives had really been the “base camps” for the next ascent. In the current climate, we all need to remember, as one permanent secretary reminded us with a resilient smile: “Bad patches happen to all of us: remember that they always come to an end.
Looking to the future
Dom Brankin, who also attended the course, is Customer Services Director for Jobcentre Plus in the North East. He was particularly grateful for the opportunity to think about the bigger picture of Civil Service leadership:
It was liberating to have time to think about the privilege of being a leader in the Service. It’s too easy for us all to focus on our individual roles and responsibilities, rather than the part we all play in delivering a great public service.
We were encouraged to think about our role in the future, and how we could shape this ourselves – rather than simply repeating what those currently filling the most senior positions are doing. We also explored what we could do to develop the next generation of leaders ourselves.
Dom, Tamsyn and John agree that the inaugural Base Camp was an invaluable experience, and would strongly recommend it to all newly appointed SCS colleagues.