The Government is committed to strengthening ‘corporate functional leadership’ across Whitehall. Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, has continually emphasised the importance of cross-Whitehall leadership of certain key functions such as HR, finance and legal services. There have been a number of recent changes, including the Head of HR becoming a full-time post reporting directly to the Head of the Civil Service, Sir Bob Kerslake. And a number of other areas are under review, including the Head of the Finance Profession’s role, as part of the Treasury’s Financial Management Review.

Stronger leadership of functions could play a part in making Whitehall more effective in a number of ways. However the problems that stronger functional leadership could help to address vary greatly. Any new leadership model has to be based on a clear account of the weaknesses that the changes are designed to tackle. Looking at the Institute’s recent work, this note highlights four recurring rationales that could provide the basis for change. The analysis in this paper shows that each of these rationales point to different models for central leadership.