What Does Place-Based Leadership Mean to Me?

What Does Place-Based Leadership Mean to Me?

Having lived in Manchester all my life, I love the character and diversity of the city. The city is made up of lots of different ‘places’. It has historically been at the forefront of new ideas, seen a lot of change and responded; demonstrating the city’s capacity to try new things.

Working for Manchester City Council, for the last 28 years in a number of roles across the organisation, has provided me with significant insight into what is important to residents, including children, young people and our staff and partners. Given this experience, I recognise the cyclical nature of public services whilst acknowledging that there is a right time and a right place for everything. Although, in Manchester there are times when we have led the way and done things ahead of our time!

I think there are a number of qualities that are important for successful place-based leadership. The emphasis is about understanding a place and what will ultimately benefit residents based on what matters to them, rather than being service driven. To fully understand a place we need to allow the time for staff to genuinely engage and listen to residents and the local members who represent the local areas. The ‘Our Manchester’ strategy designed in true partnership with residents and provides an excellent opportunity in Manchester to do just that.

A place-based approach recognises that one size doesn’t fit all and that services need to be flexible and responsive to the bespoke needs of different places. As a leader, you need the flexibility to dip in at a number of levels, from influencing and shaping the front line using an on-the-ground perspective of an area, to its relationship with the city-wide, bigger picture of how the whole place operates.

Leaders are not the sole custodians of good ideas. Your role is to cultivate and enable ideas from generations across the organisation and allow the testing of innovative approaches.

On reflection, if I could give myself one piece of advice early in my career, it would be not to restrict ideas by thinking too rigidly about the future. Things don’t necessarily turn out as you imagine – they change and develop and if you constrain your thinking to what you know, you reduce your ability to innovate and respond to change. Places change quickly and we have to be able to adapt to this. Some things that we are working on now, we would not have thought possible 5 years ago!

Fiona Worrall
Director of Neighbourhood Services
Manchester City Council 

There’s No Place Like Home

We thrilled to introduce the first in a series of blogs providing personal perspectives on what place-based leadership means. Leading from place is often talked about within  Leading GM as a shared goal to transform our places and communities from within. Engagement & Organisational Development Manager for Bolton at Home, Paula Whylie, shares her thoughts on what it means to lead from place.

There’s no place like home

I often get asked by colleagues “what is this #LeadingGM thing all about?” They are interested in why it’s seen as a different type of leadership programme and why it’s something Bolton at Home are keen to get involved in. I usually start by sharing the programme’s ambitions around leadership expectations.


Numbers 2 and 3 are sometimes followed by a quizzical look. This doesn’t surprise me, as it’s not language we use on a regular basis, it feels and sounds unfamiliar to most people. I’ve given some thought as to what ‘place’ means to me and considered if it fits with what we are trying to achieve within GM. I also invite you to share your thoughts.

The first thing that pops into my mind is ‘there’s no place like home’ which leads me to ‘home is where the heart is’. Think about when you are away from home. Even when it’s through choice, let’s say on holiday or working away, there usually comes a point when you start to yearn for familiar sights, sounds and smells around you and you may feel as though something is pulling you back. It could be friends, loved ones, or even in the case of my kids, Warburton’s bread. The fact that we don’t live in a house made of bread (ginger or otherwise), I suppose illustrates my thoughts around home being about place and belonging.

So what does leading from place mean?

Well for me, it’s still all about the heart. By this I mean it’s getting to the heart of how we can work with our communities to really understand what matters most, and what enables, or disables our communities to thrive. If you’ve ever watched ‘Marooned’ with Ed Stafford (adventurist and survivalist), you’ll know that his mission is to see if he is able to survive, or thrive in inhospitable and extreme environments. Worryingly, this concept is the mirrored reality within some of our GM communities. Only for some is it a much grimmer picture and we have to add another dimension to that: take a step back and acknowledge that for some, just surviving sounds like utopia.

Leading from place means thinking and working outside in, rather than the previously well intentioned inside out, which saw multiple organisations and sectors working within GM, sitting in numerous strategy meetings to solve the same problems in a much less connected way. Working outside in, supports the leading from place expectation. It supports cross sector working by focusing first on community needs and then using their combined experience, knowledge and resources to make smarter decisions which engage and empower people living in our communities. In this context, the place is seen as belonging to the people living there.

There’s no place like home.

Paula Whylie

Engagement & Organisational Development Manager
Business Unit
Bolton at Home


Two new dates: Leading from Place Workshops

** Due to popular demand, we are pleased to announce two new dates for this workshop – 6 September and 24 October **

Building on the success of recent Leading GM masterclasses, we are delighted to announce that our next gathering is the Leading From Place Workshop.

This one-day workshop, facilitated by Vanguard, is for any leader in GM who wants to understand what it takes to transform places and lead within, and on behalf of their organisations, systems and places. It is designed for those who want to develop their skills as a place-based and systems leader.

This Leading From Place Workshop complements the Leading GM Leadership Programme and other place-based work/integration already underway. It will be a lively and thought-provoking gathering where specialists within this field will introduce key place and systems leadership concepts through real examples, case studies and activities; building on the knowledge and experience of those taking part.

We are running the workshop on seven dates: 27 June, 18 July, 27 July, 9 and 23 August, 6 September, and 24 October, and anyone who is a leader in GM is welcome to attend.

To book your place, CLICK HERE for 6 September and CLICK HERE for 24 October.

More information on the workshop is available below:

Leading from Place Workshop 18 July

The second Leading from Place workshop took place on 18 July, with another group of GM colleagues coming together and exploring Place Based Leadership. This was another successful workshop, with the next three dates all sold out. Delegates have said of the two workshops held so far:

The Leading GM Workshop on 18th July was a positive and enlightening experience that enabled participants to look at problem solving in an altogether different way. By focusing on the whole picture rather than a fragment, participants were able to see how it was possible to resolve the obvious presenting issues by amending a seemingly unrelated interaction or process.

Highly thought provoking day which has helped me to grapple with counter-intuitive ideas and challenge thinking for myself and others, to enable transformational and sustainable change in Greater Manchester.

Given the ongoing level of popular demand for the Leading from Place workshops, we will be announcing two new dates shortly, so look out for these on the Leading GM website, on twitter and in your inboxes! If you’d like to receive updates on Leading GM announcements, subscribe to our mailing list by CLICKING HERE.

Slides from the day are available below:

Means and ends – a blog by Jon Rouse

Jon Rouse, Chief Officer of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, has written a new blog exploring opportunity and access to good health care in Greater Manchester:

“Aneurin Bevan said that ‘No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.’ This principle of universal access is the cornerstone of our NHS and long may it endure. But Greater Manchester’s devolution programme does pose a challenge to this principle and it is one of sufficiency. We have set ourselves the mission of the greatest and fastest possible improvement in the health of our population. The biggest barrier we face in achieving this goal is not access to medical treatment, important though that is, but rather tackling the corrosive impact of poverty and inequality.

On my office wall I have a map of the Greater Manchester tram network that shows the differences in life expectancy here. Within a matter of just a few stops and miles, we see a 10 year gap in average life-span that can only be explained by poverty and deprivation. We are not blind to this reality; it does not undermine the principle of universal access to recognise that some parts of our population need a deeper and wider offer, an offer that spans economic, social and clinical needs. … ”

To keep reading, CLICK HERE.

Leading from Place Workshop 27 June

The first Leading from Place Workshop was held on 27 June and facilitated by Jeremy Cox from the Vanguard Consulting Group.  14 leaders took part from a range of sectors and localities across GM including GM family, Health, Housing, and Local Authority. This workshop is designed to support the Place Based Integration initiative and emerging workforce priorities from the Early Adopter sites. It is also designed to help create a critical mass of place based leaders across Greater Manchester. The areas covered throughout the day strongly aligned with the developing three characteristics of a Place Leader (shown below):

3 characteristics of place leader

Rita Evans, Leading GM Programme Director, introduced the day and highlighted that the three characteristics are aligned to the GM Leadership Expectations, in particular leading from place.

 leading gm expectations landscape - Leading from Place


The key focus of the workshop was helping GM leaders to make use of Systems Thinking methodology to design new ways of working based on a full understanding of presenting and contextual demand. This approach enables localities to identify situations where the current system creates waste or fails to get the best outcomes. It also enables them to design new approaches to tackling and removing those system conditions. The role of place-based locality leadership will be key to taking effective action in the system.


Attendees from this first Leading from Place Workshop have said:

Really helps to understand how our work issues are a product of the systems we have created. Really useful and thought provoking course.

I found the session very useful, in that it gave me a good grounding in a number of different methods of system thinking, which I can now research further and implement within my own origination.

Insightful overview provided by knowledgeable and passionate speaker.


Slides from the Leading from Place Workshop:


We are holding four more Leading from Place Workshops on 18 July, 27 July, 9 August, and 23 August (all dates currently sold out). For more details please contact

Immersion 2: Leading GM Leadership Programme

Following on from the first Immersion on 11 May, our second Leading GM Leadership Programme cohort regrouped on 22 June for their second Immersion event. Led by Mari Davis, Liz Goold, Joyce Redfearn, and Myron Rogers, the delegates continued to work through place based challenges with their GM colleagues. Ian Williamson (Chief Accountable Officer, Manchester Health and Care Commissioning) also joined us to open the day and share his story. Thoughts and learning that emerged throughout the day were captured by Paolo Feroleto, who created some fantastic images (available below). Through the two Immersion events, this second cohort of GM Leaders have identified some key issues in their place and developed tools and strategies to move forward.

As the second cohort continues moving through the Leading GM Leadership Programme, we are looking forward to their Reunion and Reflection event. To be held on 17 October, cohort 1 delegates are also invited to meet their colleagues on cohort 2 and share their learning and experiences. Cohort 1 and 2 Leadership Programme delegates can book their place here.

Some photos from the day: 

20170622_153900 20170622_153843 20170622_153910 20170622_120158 20170622_121921


Images from Paolo Feroleto:

1   3  6

5 4 Goldfish 7


Slides from the day: 


Social media story: 

Immersion 11 May for Cohort 2 of Leadership Programme

Our second Leading GM cohort began their Immersion programme phase on 11 May at the Salford Innovation Forum. This was an exciting and thought-provoking day, with our second cohort (and some of our first cohort) of GM leaders grappling with real challenges in their organisations, places, and across GM. Throughout the day, the group immersed themselves in this work, and also continued to build upon their relationship both within and across their places and cohorts.

For this cohort, their Immersions will be a two day programme, with the second day taking place on 22 June. Leading this cohort through their first Immersion were Chris Lawrence-Pietroni, Myron Rogers, Mari Davis, and Liz Goold. We were also joined by Maggie Kufeldt, Executive Director, Health and Wellbeing from Oldham MBC to open the day. We look forward to seeing everyone on 22 June as the group comes back together to continue to work and reflect on their challenges!

Some photos from the day:
20170511_100334 20170511_100345 20170511_100707 20170511_154739

Slides from the day:

Follow the day’s social media story as it unfolded:

Reunion and Reflection 25 April – Cohort 1, Leading GM Leadership Programme

Our first Leading GM Leadership Programme cohort reunited on 25 April for their final programme phase, the Reunion and Reflection event. Held at the Life Centre, Sale, this event was led by Rene Barrett, and provided this first cohort the opportunity to reflect on their learning and leadership journey to date. Some of the nominees from the second cohort also joined the group for part of the day to meet new colleagues and share their experiences more widely. Two delegates from cohort one – Gareth Hughes, GMP, and Shaer Halewood, Oldham MBC – presented a GM Leadership in Action Snapshot to the group, with Tony Cottam, Bolton at Home, also sharing new ways of working and leading from a housing perspective. We were joined by a range of speakers through the day:

Peter O’Reilly, County Fire Officer and Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service
Dame Louise Casey DBE CB
Tony Cottam, Head of Employment and Enterprise, Bolton At Home
Ian Hopkins, Chief Constable, Greater Manchester Police

Carolyn Wilkins, Chief Executive, Oldham MBC
Charlie Norman, Chief Executive, St Vincent’s Housing Association
Yvonne Rogers, Strategic Workforce Lead, GM Health and Social Care Partnership
Eugene Lavan, QIPP Programme Director, Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Trust

Presentations from Rene Barrett, Gareth Hughes, and Tony Cottam

Notes accompanying Gareth Hughes’ presentation

Some photos from the day
IMG_5729 IMG_5730 IMG_5734 IMG_5742 IMG_5733 IMG_5752 IMG_5756 IMG_5758 IMG_5760 IMG_5763

Social media story of the day

Second cohort begins Leading GM Leadership Programme

On 7 and 8 March, the second #LeadingGM Leadership Programme cohort began their leadership journey at their Driving Place Leadership event. Across the two days, this second group of almost 100 GM leaders started a six month programme that will see them connect with each other, with their wider places, and with GM citizens. Throughout this event, we saw another group of enthusiastic leaders explore what it means to be a courageous and innovative leader in Greater Manchester through a range of sessions and activities. A number of inspirational guest speakers from a variety of sectors joined the delegates and explored the GM vision and what it takes to lead:

Day 1
Jon Rouse, Chief Officer, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership
Carolyn Wilkins, Chief Executive, Oldham MBC
Claire Norman, Associate Director Communications and Engagement, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership

Day 2
Katy Calvin Thomas, Director of Strategy, The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner and Interim Mayor
Neil McInroy, Chief Executive, Centre for Local Economic Strategies
Carolyn Wilkins, Chief Executive, Oldham MBC
Claire Galt and John Walker, Tameside South Integrated Neighbourhood services
Vickie Hollingworth and Andy Parkinson, Wigan MBC
Jim Taylor, City Director, Salford CC

On the evening of 7 March, this group took part in a Dinner with a Difference, participating in Street Wisdom sessions led by Julie Drybrough, or in outreach activities with The A Teams (at the Audacious Church, Salford) and Barnabus (at their drop in centre at The Beacon, Manchester). This inspiring evening was another great addition to the Driving Place Leadership event.

We look forward to the rest of this cohort’s leadership programme!

A snapshot of the two days is available below:
Day 1 group Rita Evans opening Jon Rouse day 1 Carolyn Wilkins day 1 Lunch Dinner with a Difference - Street Wisdom Dinner with a Difference - A Teams Street Wisdom Group photo Guest panel day 2 Bio cards 2

The slides from the two days are available below:
Main presentation

Wigan case study

Useful links:

October 2016: Stories Change the World: the power of public narrative

Ganz lecture on public narrative:

The social media story from 7 and 8 March: