It’s all change in Government technology circles. The various changes that have happened at the top of the Government Digital Service and elsewhere in recent days signify something, although I’m not entirely sure what. Derek du Preez makes a good stab of it here.

All this change got me thinking. For a while now I’ve been arguing that the momentum behind GDS appears to have been lost since the departure of the talismanic Mike Bracken last year. And here appears to be the paradox:

The talismanic leader is undoubtedly an effective route to instigate change in an organisation.

Change takes much longer to bed in to an organisation than just the period of making the change. For the underlying beliefs and cultures to shift can take years, if not longer.

The sorts of personalities that make for talismanic leaders within organisations rarely are the sort of people with these patience to stick around for long after they have “delivered the thing” (rather than the longer term deep change).

Moreover, talismanic leaders can often ruffle a lot of feathers, or just plain piss off a lot of folk on the way to “delivering the thing”. So an exit stage left shortly after the thing is delivered is often a necessity.

Founder leaders (Jobs, Gates, Ellison, Benihoff etc) are an exception to all of this. Probably. Although even founders eventually have their day (and many founders leaders leave much earlier in the development of an organisation).

So what? Well, maybe the big personality change leaders aren’t the best long term approach. But in our delivery-centric culture, show and steady approaches are often frowned upon…

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