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Institution needs a new role model

Comment

What kind of leadership does the ICE need? The adverts in the press last weekend (see News) set out the kind of person being sought. But it is still unclear exactly what tools and powers the new director general will have.

When Mike Casebourne left four months ago, it was clear that an all encompassing, strategy setting, business driven chief executive role could not easily work at the Institution.

The experiment driven by pastpresident Sir Alan Cockshaw to modernise the ICE by putting a private sector style, hands on chief executive in charge seems to have failed.

Yet this philosophy must clearly still be the way forward - as president Mark Whitby points out, the ICE must be run as efficiently and effectively as any private sector company.

But it seems the complex internal workings of the learned society at Great George Street need a more gentle touch. Relationships between the secretariat and the elected representatives are vital yet easily strained if accountability for policy and delivery are not clarified.

So, while the return to a director general role appears to indicate some learning from past mistakes, precisely what other aspects of the role will need to change are largely in the air.

Council has already chewed over the options of how the president and elected members of Council will contribute to the process and retain democracy in the ICE. And apparently, conclusions have been reached.

Separation of the secretary role, leaving the director general free to concentrate on delivering the Council's strategy, seems sensible. The nittygritty of steering the Institution through the minefield of constitutional and charity law can be an overwhelming burden, taking focus from the real needs of the membership.

And clearly, it is a sensible move to create a role that leaves the director general free to concentrate on delivering the will of members, Council, the executive and the president.

Yet the advert talks of the role being fully responsible for creating and implementing strategy, while leading a team to improve the efficiency of the Institution and working to deliver an integrated profession. All of which would seem only subtly different from the previous chief executive role.

We must hope that this does not indicate an acceptance of the status quo. For, without changes to the role, the ICE will struggle to get the kind of leadership needed to move itself up the chain of influence.

And perhaps more so than ever before, the ICE needs such a leadership, with the power and credibility to drive the whole profession forward to tackle the growing challenges across ever diversifying construction engineering industries.

As Joe Dwyer pointed out in his presidential address 18 months ago, this is not the president's job. ICE presidents make their mark in the years leading up to the term in office and are too busy being president to do anything else.

So this strong leadership must come from a new director general. Someone with the freedom, power, enthusiasm and long term view to guide and drive the Council's agenda to the benefit of members.

Antony Oliver is editor of NCE.

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