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Recruiting Leaders for the Permacrisis

by Greg Hayes


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The public sector faces an unprecedented landscape. This permacrisis arguably demands a new breed of leader, one who embodies the radical qualities recently outlined by New Local: resilient, community-focused, and adaptable. But how can we find and recruit these "radical leaders"? Finding and retaining them requires a strategic shift in both recruitment and employee engagement.

Firstly, authorities must understand and find a degree of consensus around what they are seeking and commit to it. We need to attract individuals passionate about public service, driven by a desire to engage communities, who thrive in constant change. Individuals should be assessed on their ability to inspire, connect, and empower others, not just manage and process. Authorities should become more open to non-traditional backgrounds—individuals who have thrived in complex situations outside the public sector and who can offer alternative perspectives and skills.

Secondly, we must rewrite the recruitment narrative. Ditch the "efficiency-first" approach and emphasise the opportunity to make a real difference in a challenging world. Showcasing a culture of innovation, collaboration, and employee well-being will resonate with those driven by purpose, not just process.

Building a resilient workforce goes beyond initial recruitment, and initiatives that prioritise employee well-being, such as flexible work arrangements and access to mental health resources, must be advanced. A culture of open communication and continuous learning is required, where internal mobility is real and idea sharing across the organisation happens easily.

Retaining this talent will be crucial. Professional development programmes that advance skills in mobilising communities, fostering resilience, and compassion leadership will equip both new and existing leaders and employees with the tools needed in the coming years. As well as ensuring the continued delivery of vital services, we must foster a culture where more radical leaders feel valued, supported, and empowered to contribute their unique skills and perspectives. By embracing these strategies, we will develop more sustainable models of leadership for navigating the permacrisis.

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