Debbie Sorkin talks about systems thinking at the Leadership Centre

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In this short video, Debbie Sorkin (National Director of Systems Leadership) talks about systems thinking at the Leadership Centre.

My name’s Debbie Sorkin. I’m National Director of Systems Leadership at the Leadership Centre, which is a charity specialising in strengthening leadership right across public services.

The Leadership Centre is a charity, which has close historic ties with the local government association. It was set up by the local government association and central government back in 2004, at that time with a remit to strengthen leadership in local authorities.  And over time, it’s worked to lead initiatives, like Total Place and Community Budgets. And latterly, got very involved with systems leadership.

I came to this through social care, originally. I was chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Social Care. And we had a remit to strengthen leadership throughout the social care sector – providers, commissioners, registered managers, right across the piece.  So whilst I was at the Skills Academy, I joined the system’s leadership steering group. And from there, went on to lead the group within the Leadership Centre so that we stopped just doing things when we were all in meetings. And we could have a proper programme.

Systems thinking, I think, has been around for a while. It originally had military antecedents. And I think local government has been doing this for a long time because it’s used to bringing different organisations together and hearing from the community about what the community actually wants. And I think that’s particularly taken hold in the last twenty years.  The NHS, I think, has come later to the party, but it has belatedly realised actually this is not a ‘nice to have’. It it’s an absolute essential.

And I think what it brings to people is, above all, a sense of reassurance and relief. Reassurance that actually other people are feeling the pressures as well. That what they’re feeling is not unusual. What they’re grappling with is not unusual. So there is some safety in numbers here and some reassurance.  And also reassurance that they don’t have to have all the answers on their own. In fact, one of the key things about systems leadership is the job of leaders is to ask questions, not necessarily to provide the answers. And you can work together then to actually make some progress in which are always going to be very deep-seated and gnarly issues.

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