Lancashire Constabulary Senior Leaders Leadership Development programme

Lancashire Constabulary serves a diverse population of around 1.5m people across an area of around 2,000 miles. However, like police forces around the country, successive rounds of cuts since the global financial crisis have intensified the leadership and operational challenges it faces. 

Doing more with less meant that a cultural shift was needed within the organisation: from the prevailing performance-based culture to a stronger emphasis on individual wellbeing, so that individuals across the force could be motivated to perform at an optimal level. Officers are also increasingly being required to operate more independently, with greater levels of individual discretion.

Moving beyond command and control

To help senior leaders adjust to this new regime and complement a wider change programme already underway, the Constabulary decided to commission a senior leadership development programme. The idea was to expose some of its key senior leaders to different ways of thinking about leadership that would help them move beyond a traditional command and control approach.

Lancaster University Management School, which had already worked with the Constabulary for a number of years, was among those invited to tender.

“We wanted to work in the academic field because we wanted to know what the evidence base was,”  explains Victor Robinson, the Constabulary’s Head of Learning and Development. 

“There are lots of leadership providers out there keen to tell you their model of leadership, but we wanted to know what works best, and where the evidence is. It was not just a case of saying this is what you need to do, but to inspire people to think for themselves. We knew that Lancaster was first class: we’re talking about people who are some of the best in their field.”

Programme design

Running over seven months, the programme consists of a series of one-day themed sessions, and an initial two-day session where participants, 12 per cohort, are resident at Lancaster. Those selected to take part are in senior positions in all areas of the Constabulary or in line for promotion to senior roles.

Participants are presented with a range of leadership concepts and other business models, and then through facilitated discussion and small-group activities they look at how these theories might translate to their own context. Via action learning groups they also share insights on how to address particular leadership issues in their work environment. Throughout the programme the input from Lancaster faculty is complemented by individual coaching which supports those involved in applying the learning to their own practice.

One of the strengths of the programme – and something regarded from the start as key to its design – is that the examples used are drawn from many types of organisation, all around the world. This was a deliberate move to avoid the insularity that can result from merely comparing best practice across different police forces.

Demand for places on the programme has escalated over the three cohorts to date, and Victor Robinson is delighted by its success:  

“To say the impact is overwhelming is an understatement. It is giving people that wider understanding in terms of what we expect in terms of wellbeing, and how they need to change. We can see the impact in the way that leaders are interacting and engaging with their staff. They are understanding what the issues are, and how to react.”

To build on this awareness, and ensure that managers at different levels share a common understanding of what is required, a new shorter version of the programme is now being rolled out for middle managers.