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Academic Director returns from a four month sabbatical

Jean Hartley has recently returned to her role as Academic Director of the Centre after taking a four month sabbatical leave from March - June 2020. 

Jean took the time out to concentrate on writing journal articles and work on the book she is writing on leadership with political astuteness for public service managers. 

Now back from leave, Jean tells us more about her sabbatical and what she has been working on.


Why did you get writing leave?

“After six years of hard labour creating and building up the Centre for Policing Research and Learning, the University said I could have 3 months off for good behaviour – so long as I spent it doing academic writing. I was due some extra time for holiday, but with lockdown it seemed just as useful to keep writing so in total I had 4 months.”

What have you been writing?

“I wrote several papers for academic journals about leadership with political astuteness for public managers, one about the leadership of select committees in the House of Commons, another about learning to interpret policing culture and one about leadership for peace-building. I also wrote one about intelligent failure in innovation. One has been published, two are accepted, on others I am either waiting or there is more work to do post-review (academic publishing is a long haul). I also wrote two book proposals which are being considered by publishers at the moment. One is about leadership with political astuteness and one is with Danish, Dutch and Norwegian colleagues about public innovation. I have to wait and see on those. If they are accepted, then I have lots of writing ahead of me, which I will fit in around being Academic Director of CPRL.”

What is the most topical article you have written?

“Perhaps most topical, with the resignation of Mark Sedwill as Cabinet Secretary, is the article I wrote with Stella Manzie on how permanent secretaries and other senior civil servants can be both politically astute and ethical in working with elected politicians, and how political astuteness can be taught. That has now been published: Hartley J and Manzie S (2020) “It’s every breath we take here”: Political astuteness and ethics in civil service leadership development. It’s not usual to be published so quickly but this was seen as very relevant currently. Although it’s about civil servants, the ideas are also relevant, I would say, to police.”

What did you enjoy writing?

“I really enjoy writing in general (even though sometimes it can be grim trying to find the right words) so it’s hard to choose. I enjoyed writing with Sophie Yates of the University of New South Wales on how public managers acquire and develop the skills of political astuteness. I also enjoyed working with Laurie Knell, an OU colleague, about intelligent failure in innovation asking the question when is it a good idea to make and learn from mistakes when innovation is happening. I also enjoyed writing a book chapter explaining for public leaders why political astuteness really matters.”

What were the worst parts of writing?

“When I feel stuck, with ideas feeling jumbled and I can’t sort them into the ‘right’ order. Another situation is when I know what I want to say but cannot find the right words. Also, when a colleague and I worked really hard on an article but it got rejected within a week by the journal! This happens to all academics at some point but it is still very demotivating! You have to pick yourself up and think how to rework the paper for a different journal.”

What was a typical day like?

“I tend to work in blocks throughout the day, with intense writing, reading to prepare for writing, and also staring out of the window (it’s called thinking). In the evening, I went for a daily walk, round and round the local park during lockdown, to release pent-up physical energy. Funnily enough, the walking often produced new thoughts and angles for writing (there is a science behind this) even on those days when I wanted to get away from work! I also donated my exercise miles to a “virtual trek” to raise money for the charity I support, Friends of Ibba Girls School, South Sudan. The virtual trek is going from the UK to South Sudan.”

Anything else you did?

“Well, apart from improving the look of my garden during lockdown, in work terms, I continued to lead and contribute to research projects on policing and politicians, on mobilising change in police L and D – and I did stay involved in CPRL to make some job appointments and to contribute to the longer-term strategy.”

Any books to recommend reading?

Discourse on leadership by Bert Spector was both work and pleasure. I read a chapter every evening in the garden during the hot weather. As a historian Bert reflects on ideas presented in various writings about leadership exercised by private sector business leaders and how these have changed over time with different social, economic and political contexts. As well as being provocative and illuminating about leadership, his chapter on history as “an absent reality” has echoes of the criminal side of policing work, where the past is not experienced in the present but has to be interpreted through artefacts and evidence. The book is wide-ranging about shifting ideas about leadership in the boardroom. A great pity he doesn’t apply those ideas to public leadership but I have supplied my own thoughts on that.”

One thing you have looked forward to in coming back and one thing you will miss?

“I have looked forward to being back with colleagues, both in the university and in policing and other public services - working together rather than working mainly alone. On the other hand, I will miss the opportunity to really focus without distractions or deadlines from other people.”

Any final comments?

“A huge thank you to my CPRL colleagues, who took on extra work so that I could have this precious time to concentrate on academic writing. Particular thanks go to Nicky Miller as Acting Academic Director, who juggled various responsibilities energetically and professionally. It was so helpful to feel that everything was in good hands.”

How do we get hold of your articles if we want to read them?

“The finished ones are available on the open repository at The Open University. Those in draft are available for personal reading from me (please see below).”

Hartley J and Manzie S (2020)  “It’s every breath we take here”: Political astuteness and ethics in civil service leadership development.  Public Money and Management.  DOI: 10.1080/09540962.2020.1777704

Hartley J (in press) Leading with political astuteness for public servants – and why it matters.  In Sullivan H, Dickinson H and Henderson H (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of the Public Servant

Hartley J and Stansfield A (2020, in press)  Leading through agonistic conflict:  Contested sensemaking in national political arenas.  Will be published in Leadership. 

Yates S and Hartley J (2020)  Learning to lead with political astuteness.  Paper submitted for publication. 

Waring J, Clarke J, Roe B, Bishop S, Fulop N,Black G, Hartley J, Exworthy M and Ramsay A (2020)  The political skill of health services change: a systematic narrative review and conceptual analysis.  Paper submitted for publication.

Parker S, Hartley J, Beashel J and Vo Q (2020)  Leading for public value in multi-agency collaboration  Paper being revised and then resubmitted for publication.

Hartley J and Knell K (2020) Intelligent failure in innovation and exnovation.  Paper being revised and then submitted for publication.


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