The Value of Leadership

It is my father’s fault that I became a Charlton Athletic supporter. I was showing some signs of affinity towards Manchester United post their ’68 triumph, when some clear fatherly direction and well-time visits to the Valley saved me (in his eyes). Since then there have been a few “ups” (and who can forget Clive Mendonca’s hat-trick in the Wembley play-off final win against Sunderland ….. surely you recall…) and many “downs”.

We have tumbled from the Premiership and are now in our third season in League One. Mid-way through last season the club appointed a new manager, Chris Powell, in some senses a gamble, as this was his first managerial role, but in many ways a shrewd choice. Powell was a fans favourite as a player at Charlton. A solid, unspectacular left back, but good enough to get a couple of England caps, he was the player who inspired the crowd, appearing from the tunnel at the end of the game (often several times) to loud cheers from the stands, whether following victory or defeat.

Now as manager he seems to have inspired the Charlton team, who are close to the top of the table. He has instilled real confidence and belief. We have a number of new players yes, but he has chosen well and has brought a higher level of performance from the players he has retained.

In this last week too it has been announced that Steve Jobs has stepped down from the role of Chief Executive at Apple owing to ill-health. In reaction to that decision, the value of the company dropped 5% on the stockmarket. Commentators talked about the significance of Jobs to the Apple brand and the inspiration he provided to people working in the company.Reference was made to the inestimable value to business of such leadership and others such inspirational business leaders were mentioned, such as Jack Welch.

In this context therefore I was somewhat disappointed this week also to read in then press another story about the size of the remuneration packages paid to a number of senior public sector leaders, this time in local government. Perhaps some of the sums apparently paid to local authority Chief Executives, if accurately reported, are surprising, given the context of budget reductions and changes to employee terms and conditions. Having said that, what frustrates me is the fact that the debate does not really focus on the value for money that senior leaders in local government and, more broadly, in the public sector provide.

The need for real inspirational leadership is not restricted to the football field, or the technology business. If the public sector is to respond to the huge challenges it faces, leadership is going to be the key. I am sure that all of us have worked with leaders who have motivated us to perform and those who have stifled our confidence and willingness to innovate. Such leadership is worth paying for.

The Hutton report on senior pay in the public sector proposed linking a proportion of pay to performance. His proposals on “earn-back pay” deserve the open public debate that he suggested. It is not clear to me how the Hutton report is to be taken forward. It is a lot easier merely to say “pay is to high” than what pay structure is appropriate and a structure that will enable us to recruit and retain inspirational leaders.

In my own small way I have shown the leadership necessary to ensure my own son has remained a Charlton fan through the difficult seasons of decline. His requests to be able to support “a good team” have been rebuffed. There are times when a directive style is appropriate. This was one and we are both happy now.



By | 2017-07-30T12:23:26+01:00 August 30th, 2011|Categories: Martin Rayson|3 Comments


  1. Peter Smith 31st August 2011 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Fascinating post from Martin Rayson; much to sympathise with.

    Certainly we need better public understanding of the difference a good leader can make. There is plenty of evidence that the quality and style of a leader creates the right climate for high performance. The facts are there to support a powerful public campaign.

    But we need two other things, and they call for some energy and communications skills from local government. First of all, people need to see some link between pay and performance. Most public sector leaders resist this: they would (naturally) prefer the highest possible fixed salaries linked to good pensions, and want to put as little money as possible at risk. But they should be prepared to say what counts as good performance and give themselves a stake in it.

    Second, they need to explain why local government matters. It is seen as the public service equivalent of carpet or wallpaper – irritating if it is discoloured or uneven, but otherwise just there. So this isn’t just about the impact of leaders on their organisations; it is about their effect on people’s lives. Work out what the public would recognise as excellence and go from there.

    Media and public views will only change if we join up and deal with these themes together.

    And I agree that the directive style has its value. But not in getting people to support Charlton!

    Peter Smith
    Hay Group

  2. Martin Rayson 1st September 2011 at 7:06 am - Reply

    I agree with your comments Peter. I get frustrated that the debate never gets beyond simply how much people are paid and we do not discuss what they deliver. I am not a huge fan of performance related pay in public services, where we can get mired in delivering effective schemes, but I see the symbolic value of people putting some of their reward at risk.

  3. Richard Crouch 7th October 2011 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    Who is charlton anyway and whats the point in directing him when he probably directs himself?

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