In the final week of being Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill KCMG managed to find time to speak with this year’s cohort of Patchworkers. While Sir Mark was Cabinet Secretary he held an impressive remit:
- Serving as the most senior adviser on strategy and policy to the UK Government
- Leading over 400,000 Civil Servants as Head of the UK Civil Service,
- Advising the Prime Minister and the Cabinet on security, defence, intelligence, and areas of foreign policy matters as the National Security Adviser
While the Masterclass session ranged across topics; covering diversity in the Civil Service to working in the diplomatic role; leadership was a consistent theme of this discussion. As someone who is currently developing my leadership skills and style within the museum sector, I found this consistent theme a valuable element of this masterclass session.
When asked about what leadership qualities, skills and values were important, Sir Mark went beyond a generic response. To paraphrase Sir Mark, being a good leader is not only about you as an individual; it’s about the people and the teams you are leading. Of course, this is dependent on the context and Sir Mark emphasises the importance of adapting yourself and leadership style to the circumstance. Meaning, this advice could be practically applied to our individual context. This was contextualised via Sir Mark’s personal experiences, where he referred to different moments in his career such as being a NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan (2009-10).
Within this discussion of leadership, Sir Mark emphasised the importance of working effectively as a team, referring to his experience as Head of the Civil Service. Sir Mark shared the following insights on teamwork:
- Communication – it is important to keep people engaged
- Big picture thinking – consider what the big issues/ ideas and be ready to take on ideas from different spaces
- Building the right team – checking if you have the right people around you and/ or a big enough team to act
- Staying calm – being confident in the team and confident in your approach
To conclude, Sir Mark not only dropped several practical gems on the topic of leadership, but he also reminded us to have fun whatever career path we chose. So on that note, from myself and the rest of the Patchwork 2020 Masterclass cohort, we wish Sir Mark all the best on his future endeavours and to make sure fun is somehow incorporated in this!
Written by Lisa Kennedy