Gus O'Donnell delivers 'Leadership and Team-Building' Masterclass
Former UK Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell delivered an inspiring and entertaining Masterclass on ‘Leadership and Team-Building in the Public Sector’ to the School’s MPP cohort on 26 September.
Lord O’Donnell led a team of over 500,000 as Cabinet Secretary and Head of the UK Civil Service from 2005 – 2011, a period in which he earned the nickname ‘GOD’ from civil servants and the press. During his Masterclass, he described his career trajectory to become the most senior official in the British Civil Service, after realising he did not have the talent to make it as a professional footballer and then pursuing academic work as an economist. Using a clip from Yes, Prime Minister, he illustrated his experiences of working with four Prime Ministers, but then revealed a darker side to life as a public servant with recollections of narrowly escaping IRA mortar bombs while at Number 10.
Emphasizing that a strong leader ‘develops the people below, so that when they leave it gets better’, Lord O’Donnell encouraged the MPP students to aspire to inclusive leadership. He stressed the importance of recognising one’s strengths and weaknesses, a priority reflected in a self-aware account of his own experiences. In outlining the key drivers of building and leading successful teams, Lord O’Donnell urged MPP students to be continuously open to feedback, not just as students but all the more so in their future roles as leaders committed to public service.
'It was clear that he represented a break with the past in civil service leadership, particularly with his inclusive style and willingness to hire good staff and learn from them', said MPP student Seth Thomas. 'An inspiration.'