Joanna Thornton, a Partner in our Not for Profit Practice, interviews Andrew Scattergood, Chief Executive of The Royal Parks, as part of our series on pioneering leadership, exploring the changes in leadership style and identifying what factors make an outstanding leader in today’s society.
Can you give an overview of your career path to date?
I have spent most of my career in the civil service and have worked for a range of organisations including Department for Culture Media and Sport, Ofcom and the Foreign Office. I held a variety of policy, financial and strategic roles at DCMS which saw me moving into a role on the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. This was a fantastic opportunity that I enjoyed immensely and gave me good insight into some of the operational aspects of The Royal Parks. I applied for the role of Chief Executive of The Royal Parks Agency when it came up, and joined as CEO in 2015. Since then TRP has become a new charity, at which point I applied and was successful for the role of CEO to the Charity. I’ve been responsible for leading an ongoing period of evolution and culture change within the organisation ever since.
How has your experience working outside of the not for profit sector shaped your leadership style? How have you needed to adapt it for the charity sector?
The key change to the Parks was the cuts to the Government grant, which started in 2002. This has led to significant changes in requirements of our staff from both a skill-set and a mind-set point of view. We have to ensure we consistently balance the need to preserve the wonderful natural environment of the parks with the commercial reality in which we are operating, which is challenging at times and requires strong leadership.
Inevitably there are cultural change implications in moving from a Government body to charity status which require adaptability. We are working through what sort of charity we want to be and, from that, the behaviours required of our staff to deliver our mission.
What has been your career-defining moment so far?
When I was at the Foreign Office I was responsible for the promotion of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic bid. London was seen as having little hope of winning at the start of the process, so to know that I played a role in the ultimate successful outcome of London’s Olympic and Paralympic bid and the regeneration that has happened as a result has been a real career high.
Starting my current role at The Royal Parks was another career-defining moment. It is such a special organisation, protecting some of London’s most important open spaces. Taking it from a Government Agency to an independent Charity, while challenging, was a truly fantastic experience and a great outcome.
The Royal Parks is undergoing a period of change in its strategic direction. Tell me more about that?
In 2017 The Royal Parks Agency and its sister charity The Royal Parks Foundation joined forces to become a new charity. This has resulted in a period of significant change for the organisation, with several phases in its evolution.
Firstly, we had to ensure the legal requirements of our new charity status were met.
Secondly, the new Board then needed to set out the strategic plan and ensure the park team bought into it. This has included producing a robust 10 year business plan including a variety of income streams, agreeing 10-year park management plans with 100-year visions, to ensure safeguarding the parks is paramount.
Thirdly, we then needed to get the structure right to deliver the plan. This inevitably has led to quite a bit of recruitment and staff change.
Finally, a period of cultural change has been embarked upon. As I have said, we need to be brave and bold about what sort of charity we want to be, and the behaviours required of our staff to deliver our mission. This is an ongoing process and TRP has now entered this fourth phase – the next 12 months will be key in continuing on the journey.
As CEO, what have you learned about working in partnership with the Board during a time of change?
We are very lucky at The Royal Parks to have had a stable Board at a time of change, which has helped enormously. The first few months as a new charity required a significant time commitment from the Board. We have achieved the right balance between strategic and operational roles and it has been important to ensure that we have had a good balance of skills on the Board. The relationship between CEO and Chair is absolutely critical to the successful running of any charity and is even more important during a period of transition. Our Chair invests time in relationships and really listens. We have a strong working relationship.
What is the single biggest challenge facing leaders in the not for profit sector in the next 5 years?
Confidence and trust in the sector are currently an issue after recent negative headlines. People need to have confidence and belief in the leaders of charities, and CEOs need to work to get the buy in of their teams, supporters and the public.
How do you think that leadership will need to change in the next 10 years and what do we need to do to grow these new leaders in the sector?
Leaders will be required to be more flexible and adaptable, leading organisations through periods of on-going change. Leadership will need to be ingrained throughout organisations, with people at all levels of charities feeling empowered to generate and drive new ideas forward, supporting the strategic direction. Leaders will need to be agile and fleet of foot.
Growing new leaders for the sector and developing talent is essential. At The Royal Parks we have built extra capacity in our parks teams, allowing for additional learning so that people can operate across the parks and develop a range of new skills. We have created an innovation fund to stimulate new ideas in the organisation. Ensuring staff at all levels see the big picture of what we are trying to achieve and their role is essential to inspiring future leaders within the organisation.