Selecting a new leader: the politics of appointments

by | Sep 16, 2011 | News

Cirrus writes for Human Resources magazineThe appointment of the new Metropolitan Police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, has caused some controversy, with some critics claiming that Hogan-Howe is a political appointment and not necessarily the best candidate for the job. In this opinion piece in Human Resources, Simon Hayward from Cirrus looks at the politics of selecting senior leaders.

Politics often does play a part in public leadership appointments. In major public sector organisations such as the police force, the politics may be influenced by the government of the day. But in the private sector, different kinds of politics can come into play. All too often, the new CEO may be the outgoing CEO’s favoured candidate, or the City’s favoured candidate, or simply one of the family.

It appears that the public is taking more and more interest in the appointments of prominent leaders. Public debate suggests that people are increasingly cynical about how both the public and private sectors are run. Many feel they have been lied to by politicians (particularly following the MPs’ expenses scandal) and big business (particularly in the wake of the banking crisis). There is a demand for more open, honest and authentic leadership. This openness, honesty and authenticity should begin with the process of appointing a leader.

To rebuild public confidence in the appointment process for senior public roles it needs to be transparent and merit-based. Major leadership appointments are always going to be subject to scrutiny and speculation: organisations can help address this by providing as much information as possible and responding honestly to queries, while maintaining confidentiality where appropriate.

Bernard Hogan-Howe may well turn out to be the best man for the top job at the Met. It’s still much too early to tell. If he is successful, I suspect the public will forget any concerns about the way he was selected. But if he fails, the public will almost certainly blame politics.

Click here to read Simon’s article in full.

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