Leading for the Future: Learning from a Leadership Development Programme for Senior Civil Servants in NI

May 18 2021

At this webinar, we will examine the evaluation of the recent leadership development programme for members of the NI Senior Civil Service, and the learning for the design and delivery of future programmes.

We will hear from:

  • Majella McCloskey, Centre for Effective Services
  • Jill Minne, Strategic HR Director, NI Civil Service
  • David Sterling, former Head of the NI Civil Service


Leading for the Future was a leadership development programme for leaders in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS). The programme was designed in the context of significant challenges in Northern Ireland such as the reshaping of government departments and preparing for an outcomes focused Programme for Government.

The Northern Ireland Civil Service engaged support from Centre for Effective Services to design and deliver two Programmes, one for Grade 3 (Deputy Secretaries) and one for Grade 2 (equivalent to Permanent Secretary level). CES carried out an evaluation with the Grade 3s to explore the difference that the programme made to those who took part, and to generate learning for public services about the design and delivery of leadership development initiatives for senior public servants.

The evaluation report highlighted significant positive differences in the skills, attitudes and practices of the leaders who took part. These included changes to individual awareness and behaviours; changes in team culture and engagement; and changes in collaborative working.

It highlights five factors which are critical to the design and delivery of leadership development programmes:

  • Commitment of senior leadership
  • A robust and appropriately scoped programme design
  • Specialised trainer knowledge and experience
  • An inclusive and reflective learning approach
  • A process to monitor and evaluate programme implementation and participants' progress


The evaluation suggests that the use of strategic projects as learning tools and enhanced use of technology to enable the participants to engage with each other outside the formal structures of the programme could be further developed in the design and delivery of future similar initiatives.

At this webinar, participants will hear from Majella, Jill and David and have the opportunity to discuss further the key learning points from the programme.