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Being a leader: a course for local government communicators

with Prof. Paul Willis

Thu, June 10, 2021
9:30 AM – 4:30 PM BST
Payment by invoice is also an option via an email to our team

This bespoke course is aimed at Directors of Communication, Heads of Communication or people at Deputy Head of Communication level who feel ready to take the next step in their career. It is specifically designed to help participants address the development challenges they face as communication leaders, both within their teams and across the organisation.


The course provides a communication-based perspective on leadership that helps participants to build on their strengths and apply key insights back in the workplace. The content is informed by the experiences of local government and other professional communicators, as well as relevant research from around the world.


This course recognises that many local government communicators do not receive much, if any, formalised leadership development support and training. However, as their careers progress, professional communicators in our sector often quickly acquire significant responsibilities as both team and organisational leaders. The course is therefore designed to explore the particular leadership challenges confronting professional communicators. It introduces different ways of thinking about leadership which have a positive practical impact and enhances how participants work with others in the challenging context of local government communication.


The course content builds on the experiences of those taking part and adapts to meet the specific needs of the cohort as the day unfolds. It therefore provides a unique and bespoke perspective on the practice of leadership in local government communication. The training further encourages networking and peer learning. For example, group discussion and problem-solving is encouraged throughout the day.


The course content explores specifically:

  • The characteristics of a good leader in local government communication
  • Different ways of thinking about leadership
  • Finding your own style
  • Developing a repertoire of approaches for different situations
  • ‘Speaking truth to power’
  • Leading teams
  • The importance of being reflective and encouraging reflection in others


Key outcomes:

  • A personalised development plan designed to improve performance as leader
  • Practical skills that will better equip you to work with others in a challenging context
  • Multiple approaches to challenging situations

About the Course Leader

Professor Paul Willis is Chair of Corporate Communications at Huddersfield Business School. He joined the University from Leeds Business School and during his academic career has been Director of two research centres focussed on issues such as strategic communication, leadership, corporate governance and responsibility.


Paul works with professional communicators and other leaders in local government, national government, the wider public sector, as well as large corporations. In 2016, he was appointed a member of the Government’s Future Communication Council by the Cabinet Office and Prime Minister’s Office. He is also an Expert Advisor to professional associations in his field.


Paul has run the Future Leaders academic course for LGComms since 2009. He also teaches the Masters on the Government Communication Service Inspire programme and delivers a range of other innovative executive education courses. He is invited to speak at academic and practitioner conferences around the world on an array of subjects relating to the communication profession.


Paul’s core research interests underpin his teaching and include studies of the leadership challenges confronting communication professionals, including how they cope with complexity (a subject he investigated for his doctorate). He also explores the role strategic communication can play in helping organisations to address ‘wicked problems’. As one of the lead researchers, he completed a major international study for the European Commission investigating innovative forms of stakeholder engagement.


His other commissioned projects include research for the Department of Health on strategic communication policy, plus investigations for major companies on emerging trends and their impact on organisational communication, strategy and professional development.


Paul held a number of leadership and board-level positions in the private sector before joining academia, including Deputy Managing Director of one of the UK’s leading independent corporate communication consultancies. This team won the industry’s prestigious Consultancy of the Year Award in addition to a host of other accolades.


During his career in professional practice Paul worked as an advisor for organisations such as BMW, BT, Ernst & Young, RWE, Proctor & Gamble, Walmart, various government departments, local authorities, the NHS, UK Sport and The Football Association. He began his career in the UK Parliament before taking on an in-house public affairs role in The City of London. He then worked in Westminster as a political consultant.


Paul’s work can be found in leading academic journals and textbooks in his field. He is also the co-author of Strategic Public Relations Leadership which explores the key facets of leadership in a communication context. Paul is a Visiting Fellow at The University of Waikato in New Zealand, a member of the Editorial Advisory Boards for both the Journal of Communication Management and the Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, as well as on the Scientific Committee for the Annual Congress of the European Public Relations Education and Research Association.

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