Hot off the back of People Services People Managers Association’s (PPMA) annual conference this week, here’s our latest opinion article from our expert leadership consultants, Aisling Jubb and Helen Trimm.


At PPMA we heard about organisational resilience and regenerative culture, compassionate leadership and leading in a hybrid working world. Here we consider the style you take as a leader in the modern workplace relevant to those areas.

You may have heard of the term VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) to describe the impact of 21st century realities on the workplace. It’s a shortcut to describe rapid changes in technology, ever-growing volumes of data, unpredictable social or political changes and more. Think the risk of social media, the impact of Covid-19 and current political instability as just a few examples.

Leaders must increasingly adapt to this more complex reality, and what we’re seeing from our work in public service organisations is that leaders are moving away from traditional leadership styles and techniques towards embracing innovative leadership.

Innovative leadership is a key capability in creating and sustaining effective, adaptable and engaging public service organisations.

Through our work across the sector with leadership teams, we have identified three critical factors that support innovative leadership.

Our three critical factors

illustrative icon - collaborative ideas

Understand and communicate your team’s purpose

illustrative icon - supportive network

Delegate decision making by providing accountability within a framework

illustrative icon - team network

Ditch traditional hierarchy and
demonstrate flexibility

Understand and communicate your team’s purpose

VUCA environments mean we can’t always quickly prioritise the right course of action or make easy decisions. This can lead to people pulling in different directions or having competing views. A shared sense of purpose galvanises people around a vision, supports engagement and simplifies decision making.

Delegate decision making by providing accountability within a framework

Traditional leadership revolves around leaders making decisions and teams implementing them. In an environment where there are multiple ‘right’ answers, leaders must develop the guardrails within which teams are free to test, explore, fail and succeed with their own ideas and decisions so they can keep with with the pace of change.

Ditch traditional hierarchy and demonstrate flexibility

In a more complex environment, leaders must carefully balance flexing between taking a strategic, birds-eye view and understanding enough of the detail to add value. The concept of ‘balcony vs dancefloor’ leadership is useful here, in helping leaders to understand when it’s time to join in the dance and when it’s useful to observe from the balcony and influence the choreography.

How we can support you

At Socitm Advisory, our purpose is to bring innovation to public services and we have a range of organisational development and change services we can offer to help you hone your innovative leadership techniques. From leadership development programmes to more holistic organisational change support, our experienced consultants can help you ensure your people and organisations have the resilience to thrive in a VUCA world.

If you think this sounds interesting and useful for your organisation, please do reach our for an informal chat by getting in touch with us here.

Related services

Organisational development

We will support your organisational performance through diagnosing your key areas to improve, designing effective, innovative and impactful interventions that will resonate with your people and leaders.

Business change and adoption

Our business change and adoption services are uniquely tailored to your organisation and your change programme. We are specialists in digital and non-digital change and will support you to keep your people at the heart of any programme.