Friday, February 29, 2008

The vulnerability of chief executives in FE and housing

In the FE and social housing sectors where I spend a lot of my time working, I’ve noticed that the industry press have been talking about the vulnerability and turnover of chief executives.

Inside Housing reported that arm's-length management organisations (ALMOs) have experienced massive upheaval over the last year with a quarter replacing their chief executives. It talked about pressure to meet the decent homes deadline, interference from parent local authorities and the desire of some chief executives to take on a new challenge

The FE pages of the Guardian reported that college principals are now like football managers - they don't last long if they don't get results. It also reported that research suggested had found that “excessive audit cultures, inconsistent funding and multiple community engagements” resulted in a growing disinclination for qualified candidates to apply for vacancies.

Should we worry? I am suspicious of the cult of the CEO – chief executives are not superheroes. (Nor in fact are football managers – see King Kevin at Newcastle United.) As one author has pointed out “Past success is no guarantee of future success”. Sometimes chief executives are just lucky – chief executives (and boards too) are at the helm of successful organisations (or what are perceived to be successful at the timel – look at Enron or Northern Rock).

Nevertheless, I have seen how a lack of leadership can be debilitating. Organisations in public services will be losing direction if they do increasingly lose their chief executives.

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