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Opinion: What does the future hold for tomorrow's leaders?

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Opinion: What does the future hold for tomorrow's leaders?

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing

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By Alistair McIntosh, chief executive, Housing Quality Network

Asking me to write about young leaders is like asking a turkey to vote for Christmas. Why would I want to
encourage a bunch of people that will dump me on the scrapheap? Well, here are some thoughts. But please have mercy, all you young bucks – I’m not ready for the SAGA holiday just yet.

What challenges will these young leaders face? I’ve no idea what is going to happen in the future. This is the guy that refused to use email because he couldn’t cope with the fast pace of the fax.

There is only one thing that we know for certain: money will be tight. So what sort of landlord will our young leaders run? It could go in two directions.

Could there be a spate of Big Society landlords? They might be organised as co-ops. How would they cut costs? You could strike a deal. Do more of your own repairs, gardening and cleaning, and you will pay less.

The rewards for bosses would not be as good as today. Young leaders would need to manage on a shoestring. The big task would be to get the staff and tenants to work as a team. If you pulled it off it would be fantastic though. Don’t rule out co-ops because of all the shenanigans at the bank. Plenty of them are doing well.

On the other hand things could get a lot more commercial. There have been a string of cock-ups from companies that run public services. It’s all too easy to poke fun at them. Have you seen the bills they have put in on tagging? Serco wants us to think they are keeping an eye on a bunch of cons like Jake the Peg with the extra leg. But the idea won’t go away. The CBI says you could slash £680m from the bill by asking companies to put bids in to manage housing. That’s a big target that a government will look at some day.

What amazes me about our world is this. We own four million homes. Why did Richard Branson never come near us? You must be able to make a profit here. Could a young leader show us the Holy Grail? It would be great to see a decent level of cost savings but with better standards too. If someone did that they would be the first million pound a year housing boss. They will make the big jump from the housing press to the Sunday Times. We will read an annoying write up of what time they get up, what car they drive, their favourite gadget and where they entertain clients.

What is the regulator going to do with all this change? First things first they will need to be able to attract some of the cream of the new crop. Their job will be so much tougher. They need to make sure that boards are up to the mark.

I’ve been troubled by all the action last year over boards that were too big or had hung around too long. Of course boards should stick to their own rules but there is a lot more to it than this. We will just need really sharp people in the future.

I do smile at the thought of a HCA visit. Why does it take so long to spot the errant board member? Do the board members take turns at hiding in a cupboard? In the wrong hands this ruse can go badly wrong. I once saw a guy try to storm out of a meeting in a huff. He opened the toilet door with gusto, then the broom cupboard and only on his third attempt did he find the door to the outside world. Let’s just say that he was no Harry Houdini.

I think the young leaders will be great. They will be bright, driven and right on top of new technology. I hope they don’t get side tracked in the way that we all too often do. Good luck to them.

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