Public Sector: We need to hone leadership skills

For years professional communicators have clamoured for a place at the top table in public sector organisations. Today that place is further away than ever because we don't have the managerial expertise or speak the language of our leaders. We're seen as channel managers, not corporate players.

Now, before anyone shouts 'Alex Aiken', these are the results from two years of research published by LG Communications into what chief executives in local government want from their communications teams and what skills communicators need in order to attain organisational gravitas.

In our latest paper published at this month's annual conference in Sheffield, LG Communications listed the core skills communications managers need in order to have the ear of those sitting at the top table.

Core Competencies for Senior Communication Roles took views from the leadership of local councils, academic and professional institutions and recruitment experts.

Its conclusion was that communicators lagged behind other professions within local government when it came to management and organisational skills and that this was keeping communications people away from the top table.

The report concluded that we need to develop expertise in the following areas: organisational and business strategy, influencing others, proving the effectiveness of communication, demonstrating integrity, practising political nous and resilience.

This wider set of skills is not part of the traditional communications practitioner training courses on offer. So the report called for a programme to support and develop strategic communicators. In Sheffield many other public sector, academic and professional organisations have come to the same conclusion.

The next step is for LG Communications to consider how it creates a training and development arm to deliver this programme. At the moment we are feeding off scraps from the top table. If we can get this right it should enable us to start ordering from the menu.

Carl Welham is vice-chair of LG Communications and head of comms and customer service at Buckinghamshire County Council

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