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Are New Zealand’s Local Government leaders effective?

Featured 2 Dec . min read

There’s some good news for New Zealand communities – council employees report feeling highly motivated to put their customers first and are proud to serve. They also believe in the value of the council’s work and that their leaders are doing a good job at putting ratepayers at the front and centre of their decisions.

However, internally the picture isn’t so rosy. Our latest insights paper into the effectiveness of Local Government leaders raises some concerning trends. In fact, the overarching view of the 16,000 Local Government employees from more than 40 councils is that their leaders’ effectiveness has slipped.

It seems employees’ ongoing stress and frustration with expectations not being met has taken its toll. They feel reticent about speaking the truth and believe even if they do speak up their contribution and honesty is not valued. They report the needle has failed to move when it comes to their leaders’ communication capabilities with a significant misalignment between how leaders rate themselves, and their employees rate them.

Let’s be fair though. Being a leader of any organisation in the current environment can be a hard slog on a normal day, let alone when your sector is going through some of the biggest reforms it has ever faced. Demands are many and the pressure, relentless.

On the upside, our insights show that during this time of uncertainty council leaders are still inspiring passion and purpose, delivering community-focused leadership, putting people first, and empowering their teams.

Our data suggests council leaders’ self-awareness has improved since 2019 as the number of gaps between their and employees’ perceptions has fallen significantly. Although it is interesting to note the growing alignment between leader and employee evaluations reflect leaders becoming less positive, or maybe more realistic, rather than employees reporting improved effectiveness.

Leaders’ overall scores fell from 76 per cent to 72 per cent between 2019 and 2021, whereas employees’ scores remained relatively stable at 63 per cent. While this improvement is commendable, there is still room for improvement.

New Zealand Council Leaders' Effectiveness: Navigating Through Disruption 2019-2021

Download our latest New Zealand Council Leaders' Effectiveness insights paper to learn more about where the sector leaders are performing well and where there are opportunities to improve.

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council leader cta

Mike Russell

Manager, Public Sector and Local Government

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