What does it take to be a leader in planning? In part two, Martha Harris talks to more prominent planning professionals about the qualities of good leaders
Paul Barnard is assistant director for strategic planning and infrastructure at Plymouth City Council
“Management and leadership often get confused: where the former is more about managing processes, leadership is about setting a vision, and creating an environment for individuals to flourish.
“Learning from shared good practice is important, and available through the Planning Advisory Service. There’s also support from the RTPI for the development of leadership and managers. But part of being a leader is the crucial issue of managing with political awareness.
“I’ve often found in my career in local government that the creation of places is most successful when political and planning leadership work together and think outside of the box – and that’s what we’ve done here in Plymouth. We’ve built cross-party consensus [for the Plymouth Plan] over a long period of time, we’ve recognised the important role of politicians in this inherently democratic planning process, but we’ve then brought our professional skills as planners to the table.
“Aside from this, local planning authorities need to build a new relationship with the citizen. Previous reforms haven’t really gotten to the heart of the fundamental question of ‘Who are we planning for?’. Ultimately we are planning for a place, what that place wants in terms of its vision for the locality, and what the people want. It’s about getting back to that visionary social planning which was very much part of the post-war era.
“Planning is in a kind of existential crisis, partly because it has long been used as a scapegoat for the non-delivery of various government initiatives, and partly because it’s had the biggest reductions in local government of any single government department. Yet planning for the delivery of jobs, homes and good quality places has never been more important. It is an incredibly challenging environment, and it requires leaders across the private and public sector to respond to these challenges.”
Kim Boal is a planner at Mid&East Antrim Borough Council, and chair of the RTPI Northern Ireland Young Planners' Network
“A leader is able to focus on major goals and deliver a strong vision, but is also needed to bring together multiple levels of governance across society in identifying issues and priorities, and driving forward responsive action.
“I feel that as chair of the Northern Ireland Young Planners Network I’m setting an example for other young planners, and by achieving this position I’ve shown that an initial interest in the profession as a student member can grow in to a greater role.
“I really encourage all young planners to join their local network and take advantage of potential leadership roles where views and opinions can be expressed to wider audiences and the RTPI. The planning profession is continually evolving and responding to socio-economic and environmental trends. So strong leadership is essential to guide and direct the profession through these changes.”
We asked our interviewees what qualities were needed to be a leader in the planning profession.
Vision: Forward-looking, keeping your eyes on the wider goal
Communication: Able to share your vision effectively and communicate the worth of planning to those outside the profession
Inspiration: Providing a positive working environment and motivating colleagues to think innovatively
Confidence: Confidence in the validity of your decisions, and inspiring confidence in others
Patience: Recognising that strong stakeholder relationships take time to build
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