Director of Children’s
Services Provision
Programme aims and purpose
Children’s Services background
Origin of the programmes
Overview of programmes
Common leadership taxonomy
Senior Leadership Programme for Children’s Services
Succession Planning
Black and Asian Leadership Initiative
Bespoke Leadership Development
List of acronyms
1. Context
Programme aims and purpose
The DCS provision is a collection of leadership development programmes for people leading children's services
at different levels.
Its ultimate aim is the same as that of the leaders it supports:
“ deliver improved outcomes for children and young people...”
It works towards this goal by providing those who lead children’s services in local authorities with support in
balancing the complex challenges of the role, and managing both themselves and their teams.
It promotes an adaptive model of leadership which is able to cope with a rapidly changing political landscape
and address persistent social issues. In doing so, it is creating a common language in the sector for discussing
leadership challenges, and supporting DCSs and senior leaders in children’s services as they lead their
authorities through changing political and financial climates.
This common understanding, coupled with the networking opportunities the programme provides, connects
DCSs and senior leaders in children’s services from different backgrounds, authorities and geographies, allowing
them to support each other and share experiences and best practice.
Children’s Services background
The DCS role was created by the Children’s Act (2004), to have statutory responsibility for the education and
social care functions in local authorities. An important aspect of the role is the coordination of the actions of
multiple agencies to ensure that children are protected and able to develop and grow.
The act was the culmination of a series of legislative changes, made in part due to several high profile failures in
the child protection system. In particular, the death of Victoria Climbié was the catalyst for the Laming enquiry:
a wide-ranging report into the failures of multiple agencies to protect Victoria, and wider problems in the
In 2010, the Munro Review re-examined the state of Children’s Services and made a range of recommendations,
in particular the removal of bureaucracy and ‘compliance’ and a shift towards learning and continuous
improvement of practice. The report was widely praised, and DCSs and their teams are now digesting these
recommendations and understanding how they can be applied within their authorities.
The origin of the programmes
The complexity of the role, coupled with its sensitivity, led to the creation of a leadership development
programme aimed at serving and future DCSs, under the then Education Secretary, Ed Balls. Though such a
programme was already envisaged by the government, the emergence of the ‘Baby P’ case and the ensuing
media interest prompted decisive action.
Early delivery
Responsibility for the provision was given to the National College for School Leadership, which took on a newly
expanded remit for Children’s Services.
Deloitte was engaged as a strategic partner for both design and delivery of the new provision initially from 2009
and in June 2009 the first cohort of 24 serving DCSs began on the Leadership programme. A separate
programme for Aspirant DCSs was launched in April 2010. The Aspirant DCS programme has now evolved into
the Senior Leadership Programme for Children’s Services.
Moving away from the National College
In 2010, the Coalition government reviewed the National College’s remit, which returned to focusing on School
Leadership. As such, a new administering body was sought to deliver the provision on an ongoing basis. The
Virtual Staff College (VSC), the training arm of the Association for Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), was
initially granted interim responsibility for the provision up to March 2012 and was then awarded the contract to
deliver the provision until 2015.
2. Content
Overview of programmes
A common leadership taxonomy
Since 2009, the leadership programmes have developed a common framework (or taxonomy) of core leadership
development concepts, in order to embed a consistent approach to leadership across the sector, and across all
levels of management. The aim of the framework is to provide leaders with a toolset for dealing with wicked
issues: complex issues for which there is no known solution and which cannot be truly solved. The programme
promotes adaptive leadership, as an approach to managing wicked issues: the ability to constantly change both
one’s personal leadership style and chosen approach to ensure the best outcome possible. Other core concepts
public value and the strategic triangle
first 90 days
immunity to change
courageous conversations
personal resilience
These concepts form the basis of the Senior Leadership Programme for Children’s Services. While these core
leadership concepts that have underpinned the provision to date remain critical to DCS, the core DCS residential
will introduce new concepts of leadership which build upon the adaptive leadership content previously covered.
An overview of these concepts is given in the following slides.
DCSs who have not previously engaged with the provision have been offered the opportunity to be exposed to
the core underpinning concepts. This is not compulsory or a pre requisite of attending one of the DCS leadership
residential events, however a basic overview of the core constructs will enable individuals to gain maximum
benefit from the rest of the VSC provision.
Authority and influence - ‘To lead is to live dangerously’
(DCS core residential only)
Working in a ‘productive zone of distress’, Marty Linsky’s input will introduce new leadership concepts to help
DCSs make progress with real challenges faced in children’s services. DCSs will bring one key leadership challenge
to the residential which participants will work with individually and collectively to make a difference to the public
value they deliver.
1. Leaders and leadership – the dilemma of
positional authority
• Positions of authority vs. acts of leadership
• What is an act of leadership in the DCS context?
• The kind that surfaces conflict and challenges
long held beliefs
• Refresh on wicked issues and adaptive
4. It’s all about impact – using systems and
relationships to make progress with the leadership
• Understanding the impact of what you think is
secret but isn’t
• Work avoidance - Keeping focus on the challenge
• Distinguishing role from self
• Seeking sanctuary
Key contributor: Marty Linsky
2. Understanding the danger of leadership - knowing
where to start when there is no obvious starting
point and no stopping point
• Understanding what’s at stake when leading and
what makes it dangerous
• Recognising that loss is at the heart of the
• Identifying factions
• Working from the balcony and recognising
different types of resistance
3. Being steady and ready – steady to take acts of
Being steady and ready – steady to take
ready for
of leadership
for the
• Recognising
and managing
your your
• Giving
work back
• Owning
your part in the problem
Owning your part in the problem
• Moving from blame to contribution
Moving from blame to contribution
A common leadership taxonomy – wicked issues
Issues can be classified as critical, tame or wicked based on two criteria: knowledge of the solution, and the
leadership style required to tackle them.
Increasing uncertainty about
solution to problem
Ask questions
Organise process
Provide answer
Hard power
Soft power
Clumsy solutions
If an issue is wicked, it cannot
be completely solved. As such,
leaders should seek to create
incremental change through a
series of ‘clumsy’ solutions,
which each contribute to
tackling a specific aspect of the
issue. Clumsy solutions should
be kept under review and must
evolve or be replaced as the
issue itself alters over time
Wicked issues are those for which no known solution exists; and for which leaders must not assume that they
have all the answers. They must empower their team to deliver, and should accept the continual review and
refinement of ‘clumsy’ solutions as a valid way of tackling wicked issues. This approach requires the
implementation of an adaptive leadership approach
Key contributor: Keith Grint
A common leadership taxonomy – adaptive leadership
Get on the Balcony
• A place from which to observe the patterns in the wider environment as well as what is over the horizon
(prerequisite for the following six principles)
Identify the Adaptive Challenge
• A challenge for which there is no ready made technical answer
• A challenge requiring the gap between values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours to be addressed
Create the Holding Environment
• May be a physical space in which adaptive work can be done
• The relationship or wider social space in which adaptive work can be accomplished
the Conflict
• Create the heat
• Sequence & pace the work
• Regulate the distress
Disciplined Attention
• Work avoidance
• Use conflict positively
• Keep people focussed
Give back
the work
• Resume responsibility
• Use their knowledge
• Support their efforts
Protect the voices of Leadership from below
• Ensuring everyone's voice is heard is essential for willingness to experiment and learn
• Leaders have to provide cover to staff who point to the internal contradictions of the organisation
Key contributor: Irwin Turbitt
A common leadership taxonomy – strategic triangle
The concept of the strategic triangle is based on the idea that, where private sector leaders seek to maximise
financial profit, public sector leaders look to maximise public value.
Leaders have three factors to consider when assessing the public value of an activity or initiative:
Public value proposition: whether the
activity would be valuable, effective or
Authorising environment: whether it will
receive support/sponsorship from key
Operating capacity: whether the delivery
team has the capacity (time, budget) to
deliver it effectively
Key contributor: Irwin Turbitt
A common leadership framework – first 90 days (Michael Watkins)
The First 90 Days provides a roadmap for creating a 90-day transition plan, supporting individuals in their
transition into a new leadership role. At the heart of this roadmap sit 10 key transition challenges. Succeeding
in meeting these core challenges enables a successful transition. Failure to surmount any one of them can be
enough to cause potentially crippling problems.
1. Promote yourself: making the mental break from your old job and 6.
preparing to take charge in the new one. Perhaps the biggest pitfall
you face is assuming that what has made you successful to this
point in your career will continue to do so.
2. *Accelerate your learning: you need to climb the learning curve as 7.
fast as you can in your new organisation. You have to be systematic
and focused about deciding what you need to learn and how you
will learn it most efficiently.
3. Match strategy to situation: you need to diagnose the business
situation accurately and clarify its challenges and opportunities.. A
clear diagnosis of the situation is an essential prerequisite for
developing your action plan.
4. *Secure early wins: early wins build your credibility and create
momentum. They create virtuous cycles that leverage the energy
you are putting into the organisation to create a pervasive sense
that good things are happening.
5. *Negotiate success: you need to figure out how to build a
productive working relationship with your new boss and manage
his or her expectations. Crucially, it means developing and gaining
consensus on your 90-day plan.
Achieve alignment: figuring out whether the organisation’s
strategy is sound, bringing its structure into alignment with its
strategy and developing the systems and skilll bases necessary to
realise strategic intent.
*Build your team: your willingness to make tough early personnel
calls and your capacity to select the right people for the right
positions are among the most important drivers of success during
your transition.
*Create coalitions: your success will depend on your ability to
influence people outside your direct line of control. You should
identify whose support is essential for your success, and figure out
how to line them up on your side.
Keep your balance: in the personal and professional tumult of a
transition, you will have to work hard to maintain your equilibrium
and preserve your ability to make good judgments.
Expedite everyone: you need to help everyone in your organisation
– direct reports, bosses and peers - accelerate their own
transitions. The benefits to the organisation of systematically
accelerating everyone’s transitions are potentially vast.
*Extracts from Michael Watkins, The First 90 Days
Key contributor: Adam King
A common leadership taxonomy – immunity to change
Dealing with adaptive challenges in pursuit of public value requires individuals to reflect on their own practice
and set goals for improvement, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Frequently, these personal changes are not achieved; we place a series of both spoken and unacknowledged
barriers in the way: our immune system
Guided by tools such as the four column exercise (example below), we can analyse the big assumptions that are
preventing us from achieving our goals.
The objective is then to overturn the immune system, and reach a point where change becomes natural and
unconscious - moving from being unconsciously immune via conscious intervention to being unconsciously
1: Observe the
big assumption
2: Stay alert to
3: Write the big
Key contributor: Anne Nagle
4: Design a first
5: Examine the
6: Run further
7: Consolidate
your learning
A common leadership framework – Courageous
conversations (David Whyte)
David Whyte uses ‘the three marriages’ to develop confidence and skills in
having courageous conversations and coping with the pressures of adaptive
Courageous conversations considers the familiar themes of integrity amidst
besiegement and finding opportunities where you have written something off.
An increasingly important part of this is to emphasise
the invitational part of conversation,
and that there is no vulnerability
Courageous conversations is a tool to enable participants to:
without an invitation. This leads in to
• Acquire greater understanding of personal strengths and
action planning, request the group do
weaknesses and awareness of what individuals can bring into
real work and practice the concepts
the act of leadership
presented by designing an activity
• Understand the nature of courageous conversations and how
around the importance of
they can benefit you both professionally and personally
vulnerability and offering people the
• Improve customer focus and service through courageous
invitation to vulnerability.
• Understand and appreciate the diversity of the individuals
that make up the team
• Effectively manage competing stakeholder demands
• Retain talented staff by recognising their value
Key contributor: David Whyte
A common leadership taxonomy – personal resilience
Focusing on personal health and management of stress can both improve wellbeing and enhance performance
in the workplace, especially in crisis situations and in dealing with difficult relationships.
A series of simple exercises can be followed to help control heart rate, manage stress and increase
concentration, such as:
A model for emotional intelligence
Calmness and security
Strength and confidence
Care and appreciation
Key contributor: Dr Peter Gruenewald
Suspending judgement: similar to the balcony
concept, focus on listening whilst avoid
judgement, allowing you to recognise the other
person’s feelings, needs and intentions, and
consider your own responses objectively
Creating coherence: focus on activating positive
Review: reflect on interactions objectively
without concentrating on the content of the
conversation, starting again if the feeling of calm
coherence is lost.
In-step technique: a process of critically analysing
past events in order to frame better responses to
future situation.

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