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Professor Catherine Staite delivers her inaugural lecture.

The College of Social Sciences was delighted to host the inaugural lecture of Professor Catherine Staite, Director for Public Sector Reform and part of the Institute for Local Government Studies (INLOGOV) on Wednesday 05 April 2017. Professor Staite is a leading light in INLOGOV, focusing on teaching the next generation of public sector leaders. As such, her lecture topic was apt, covering leadership models from the 19th century onwards in order to cast light on our understanding of leadership in today's public services.

Professor Staite’s lecture was introduced by Professor Tim Jones, Provost and Vice-Principal of the University of Birmingham. Professor Jones spoke about Professor Staite’s background in the legal and public sectors, including roles at North Humberside MIND, the Legal Services Commission and the Audit Commission.

Her lecture then began by highlighting the difference between management and leadership. Professor Staite spoke about the prevalence of the Great Man theory in 19th century society and how it persists in some public perceptions of leadership in spite of the changing and more nuanced understanding of leadership we have gained from academic research.  Professor Staite pointed out that whilst some might consider Birmingham’s own Joseph Chamberlain, the founder of the University and former mayor of Birmingham as an example of the Great Man theory, his achievements were founded on his ability to work with many others including his political opponents.

Leading theories through the 20th century focused on ideas such as context, situation and emotional intelligence and the concept of servant leadership. Arguing that today’s world of complex public service challenges needed a more collaborative approach through networked governance, she concluded her lecture by pointing to the way in which leaders are ritually scapegoated for public service failures leaving a wide range of actors – politicians, professionals and partners – to continue to fail again and again.

Professor Mark Webber, Head of the School of Government and Society, closed the event. He led a short question and answer session, where the audience were invited to ask Professor Staite their questions. She answered in detail on topics such as leadership in sport and leadership role models. He finished by discussing the future of public sector leadership.

The lecture was followed by a drinks reception, where guests discussed the topic of the lecture.

Inaugural lectures are a time-honoured tradition at the University. All newly-appointed chairs are invited to give a lecture to a public audience, on their area of specialism. To find out more about inaugural lectures in the College of Social Sciences, please visit our series.

Watch the inaugural lecture.