National School of Government
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Whole Systems Go!: Improving leadership across the whole public service system, published today, sets out the parameters to promote and cultivate leadership capability across the public service.
The paper, commissioned by the National School of Government and the Public Service Leaders Alliance, is authored by Professors John Benington and Jean Hartley from Warwick Business School . It addresses the question ‘What would it take to create more effective leadership of the whole governmental and public service system?’ 
Benington and Hartley argue that the current economic crisis provides a significant catalyst for developing more effective approaches to public leadership and organisation development by working in an integrated way across the whole public service system. Their recommendations include:
New patterns of ‘adaptive leadership’ to tackle tough, complex, cross-cutting problems in the community.
Joined up leadership development programmes to address whole system challenges.  
Leadership development programmes that translate individual learning into organisational and inter-organisational action and improvement.
Rod Clark, Principal and Chief Executive of the National School, said:
“This is a timely contribution to innovative thinking about leadership across all levels of government during the current cold climate. The radical recommendations within this report are highly relevant both to our longer term thinking about the changing relationships between government and citizens, and between different levels of government, but also to more immediate concerns with the leadership of local communities.“
John Benington and Jean Hartley said:
“We have aimed to develop a new conceptual framework for thinking about leadership as part of a complex adaptive system, to help tackle tough problems facing organisations and communities. Our report provides some very practical proposals for change in our approach to fast track graduate development programmes, senior civil service training and the training and induction of ministers and MP’s, as well as leadership programmes for top civil servants and all public and voluntary services across a whole area as in the Total Place programme.”
Notes to editors:
  1. As the Government’s centre of excellence for learning and development, the National School of Government became a government department in January 2007. Under the leadership of Rod Clark , it strives to ensure the highest professional and academic standards in public service organisational and people development. Visit for more information.
  1. Whole Systems Go!: Improving leadership across the whole public service system is available at
  1. The Sunningdale Institute is directed by the National School of Government’s Professor Sue Richards. For more details, including Fellows’ biographies, visit
  1. For more information about the Sunningdale Institute please contact Nicola Mullan at the National School of Government on telephone number 01344 634773, email
  1. Professors John Benington and Jean Hartley are both fellows of the Sunningdale Institute and draw on 15 years’ research, development and teaching on leadership and leadership development in the public, private and voluntary sectors.  They are based at the Institute of Governance and Public Management (IGPM) at Warwick Business School , University of Warwick . For further information visit
  1. For media enquiries, please contact Alfred Bacchus, Senior Communications Manager, email, tel: 01344 634253 or Chris Clark, Head of Communications and Marketing, tel 01344 634145, email  

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