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Reflections on Leadership in Planning

Mandy Pearse MBA, FCIPR, is the trainer for the Online CPD Masterclass - Effective Leadership Skills for Planners.

During my career I have had the pleasure of working with many Directors and Heads of Planning. I have led communications for several authorities as well as being a PR consultant working with developers.

I have been reflecting on their leadership styles and the things they all have had in common.

They fostered a strong sense of camaraderie amongst their planners. They also had the confidence in them to be able to coach, support and delegate. And they only used a directive style when required such as a particularly urgent or sensitive matter.

Those I worked with were great champions of diversity. This was clear from the people they recruited and promoted. It also showed on local plans, masterplans and major re-developments in the way they worked with communities.

These Planning directors developed relationships with faith leaders and community representatives in the city. Often doing so outside of their day-to-day work.

They also walked the talk. I recall being the only women and non-planning professional working on a major redevelopment scheme. A developer appeared to dismiss my opinion and was called out by my director, who made it clear he valued the opinions of everyone at the meeting.

They all showed the leadership qualities that encouraging strategic thinking and innovation, as well as being ethical and civic minded. You would find them building relationships with private and third sector partners across city.

I would also note that they took time to understand and work with the politicians of all parties. Planning leaders particularly those working in local government need to have political nous.

Planning is a politically charged issue for councillors and MPs. These leaders gained trust and respect by briefing party leaders and MPs ahead of major developments.

I have been lucky to work with some great planning leaders and hope to meet many more through RTPI.

Please check for the upcoming masterclass dates in the RTPI CPD Training Calendar 2023 where you can also find complimentary masterclasses.

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