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The chair in government: profiling the chair of an arm’s-length body

Public sector leadership Statutory authorities Governance United Kingdom

This report aims to enhance understanding of the chair's role in arm’s-length bodies (ALBs) and shows how defining best practice can encourage great candidates to take on these essential leadership roles.

ALBs are an enduring part of government. In the United Kingdom, 295 ALBs account for a gross annual expenditure of about £265 billion and a workforce of almost 300,000.

The report draws on more than 30 interviews with chairs and more than 30 surveys. These responses answer four key questions:

  • What is unique about the ALB chair role?
  • How does the chair role differ between ALBs?
  • What does it take to be a high performing ALB chair?
  • How can stakeholders support the chair?

There are four primary audiences for this report:

  1. Prospective chairs who are looking to better understand how the role of the ALB chair is substantially different from and more complex than other comparable roles. This report will detail existing public chairs’ perspectives on the nuances of the role and provide insights from current chairs about how you can be most impactful in role.
  2. Current chairs who are interested in understanding the challenges and opportunities in the role that their peers experience. This report will share your peers’ views on what strategies and skills they found to enable them to be most impactful in role. It can also be a tool that you can share to help build influential departmental and organisational relationships.
  3. Senior executives who are interested in better understanding the value that a chair can bring. This report will outline how you can help the chair to perform their role more effectively and how you can make the most of your chair’s experience, in turn helping to achieve your shared organisational goals.
  4. The Cabinet Office and sponsoring departments who are interested in understanding the value chairs can bring to an ALB. This report also addresses some of the challenges chairs face when transitioning into the role and how they can best be supported. It also provides insight into the role of the public chair, which may support staff without experience working with chairs to work with them more effectively.
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