Having moved out of government and into the arena of public policymaking, I've become fascinated by the need for a better understanding and implementation of a collaborative leadership model within the sport and physical activity sector.
Collaborative leadership is a management practice that aims to bring managers, executives and staff out of their silos and, instead, work together.
In collaborative workplaces, information is shared organically and everyone takes responsibility for the whole.
Time after time I hear the sector ask the government for a joined-up approach and cross-departmental working. I fully endorse this, but it's hard to make the case when the sector still seems way too fractured.
The sector's reaction to a government funding announcement should be “how do we, as a sector, most effectively work together and use the money to provide a solution" – not "how do we, as an individual organisation, get our hands on the money". I have witnessed the latter personally in some of the roles I've held.
It's important to realise that, as we move into a wider policy remit, which covers sport and physical activity, our competitors are not others in our sector – but those competing for our audience time and money. The Sport England strategy consultation only confirms the direction of travel. We are here to change the system, as well as to deliver ‘activity’ ourselves. In fact, I argue consistently that shifting transport and planning policy will have the biggest impact on our physical activity levels – rather than the direct investment in sport
The money available for direct investment in sport through the DCMS and its NDPBs is minuscule – about the same as the NHS spends in a day. Therefore talk of whole-system thinking and the ecosystem become more important.
Our system is complex and yet all interrelated. I make the case consistently that we need to be working collaboratively at two levels.
Firstly, we need to do it within the sector. I'm in a fortunate position, hovering above the entire sector with a helicopter view. And I have to be honest – while things are better at a leadership level, they're not improving quickly enough through the whole system.
Secondly, we need to learn to collaborate much better with those outside of our sector – and those that we need to influence. We need a level of humility when approaching other agendas. The extended workforce put in place by Sport England should give us a valuable resource and lots of lessons.
US President Harry Truman once said that it is "amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit" – and he was right. If we create an environment where collaborative leadership is the norm, we can achieve so much more.