Leadership in Tough Times: Confronting Complexity and Inspiring Hope

Jean Hartley, Professor of Public Leadership, The Open University Business School
Jean Hartley, Professor of Public Leadership, The Open University Business School

I’ve recently moved to the Open University Business School as Professor in Public Leadership so this blog invites you to an OU masterclass I am hosting on 25 April in London, and also gives you some information about what I am up to at the OU.

The OU runs a series of events for alumni and the wider business and government communities, called Business Perspectives. Our next event is on April 25 which is on the theme of Leadership for tough times: Confronting complexity and inspiring hope. Leadership is a bit of a buzz word in management circles at the moment, but our aim is not to be fashionable but to explore in some depth the role of leadership at a time when many organizations and their employees in the UK are finding life very tough.

What is the role of leadership in confronting the complexities of recession/economic flat-lining, public sector cuts, greater stress and anxiety in the workplace and a loss of a sense of direction in society? Can leadership inspire realistic hope for the future – not Pollyanna optimism but a real sense of finding a way forward in spite of the challenges?

In a mix of academic and practitioner inputs, I will be joined by some inspiring leaders and commentators, including Caspar de Bono, Managing Director B2B at the Financial Times; Sue McAllister, Director General of the Prison Service, Northern Ireland; Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of the London borough of Lewisham, and Lubna Haq, of the Hay Group. With these speakers, along with contributions from participants and the facilitator, Dr Caroline Ramsey, we will debate and discover aspects of leadership in a tough climate, how to lead for growth in challenging times and how to engender emotional resilience and build realistic hope within organisations and communities.

I hope you will be able to join us there. Click here for further event information and to book your place.

You might also like to contribute to conversations on this topic already taking place on this blog. It would be helpful to think about the following questions prior to the event:

• What is the biggest leadership challenge facing your organisation?

• During tough times what should a leader’s top priorities be?

• Which leader(s) do you find inspirational and why?

• How do leaders develop their skills to lead organizations against the odds?

• How is a focus on leaders different from a focus on leadership?

Here is a bit of background about me. I arrived at the Open University in February this year, after 16 years at the University of Warwick. I was attracted to join the Open University by its interests in public leadership (for example, in the Public Leadership and Social Enterprise centre in OUBS) and also the opportunity to work with colleagues with interests in public leadership and management, such as John Storey, Rob Paton, John Clarke and Siv Vangen. The Open University’s commitment to high quality research and teaching which makes a practical impact on the ground was also attractive. I know I have made the right move.

My research and teaching interests are in public leadership and in innovation and improvement in public service organizations. I undertake research across both private and public sectors (for example, political astuteness skills for managers), but public services interest me particularly because of the need to set leadership and management in a democratic and policy context. As well as bringing a number of research projects and people to the OU, I have also recently joined the Berwick Advisory Group, which is following up the Francis Report on Mid-Staffs NHS, in order to provide advice to the Prime Minister and the NHS on how to enhance patient safety across the NHS. We have a listening event in mid-April, and watch out for our report in July this year.

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