Strategic planning and leadership development
for local government

Get out of the weeds and into the future. Learn the skills to be an effective civic leader, as an elected member or Council officer.



Screenshot - 2023-10-01T234911.491

Why I care

My first job out of university was at a small Council in the South Island of New Zealand. Despite a four-year politics degree, I walked into my policy job with no real idea what local government was about.

I walked around in a daze for the first few months - you mean, people could speak DIRECTLY to their elected members… and we had to ANSWER them?! Direct democracy in action? Are you serious?! I was blown away. I still am.

Despite leaving that job 4 years later, I was never really able to leave local government. Anyone in the sector knows what I’m talking about. It burrows into your heart - the community connection, the tangible impact - and none of the frustrations (of which there are many!) are enough to keep you away for long.

Despite growing my business in all kinds of directions since, my heart remains in local government. 

How I help

My expertise is in strategic planning and leadership. I’ve worked with dozens of Councils across New Zealand and Australia to get clear on their direction and build the skills for legacy leadership. For years that meant one-off workshops, and tri-annual strategy sessions.

Then, in 2022, I was the headline act for the Australian Local Government Association annual conference - and this was a BIG DEAL. I’m talking 3 days of me on stage as MC, plus the opening keynote, a leadership masterclass, and over 1,000 Mayors and CEOs walking away with a copy of my book. Holy moly. Career highlight.

I realised I had to offer something amazing to all these wonderful new fans. Something special. Something that hadn’t been done before. Something that would bring my unique set of skills (Liam Neeson style) to the sector.

That’s when Strategic Public Leaders was born.

“This is the only way to do it, with governance and management in the same room. We had councillors with a little experience and those with a lot, senior managers and team leaders, and we could step out up and out of our siloes, with everyone happy to speak up. Our focus now is to continue to lead the way.”

Leave your leadership legacy

Local government is one of the most challenging sectors to lead in - you're under intense media scrutiny, closely connected to your communities and have to make long-term choices in short-term conditions.

Bureaucracy is rampant, stakeholders are plentiful and progress can be painfully slow.

Strategic Public Leaders is here to help you leave a legacy you can be proud of. We bring governance and management together and learn the skills you’ve always needed to think long-term, get out of the operational weeds and make great decisions for your community.

Get out of the weeds 

Go beyond potholes and barking dogs. Learn to ask great questions, interrogate systems and make changes to the big picture.

Respond to change

Your conditions will change as soon as the ink on your last strategic plan is dry. Learn how to lead through uncertainty and make progress.

Make better decisions

What is a great decision made of, and how do you produce it? Feel more confident choosing a future direction with decision skills.

How it works

Strategic Public Leaders is designed specifically for the needs of local government leaders.

Most leadership development programs are off the shelf and targeted at the private sector. Elected members learn to be company directors, Council officers learn to be corporate executives - and communities miss out on the leadership they really need. 

SPL is just for local leaders. We know you're resource-constrained, time-poor, and pulled in a dozen directions, so we don't waste time with impractical theory.

We get runs on the board, fast, by learning skills you can put to the test in the room. Perfect for a mid-term circuit breaker or new Council induction.

Book in some fast, fun, high-impact learning, and you'll walk out with:

  • Role clarity between governance and management

  • Decision-making tools and frameworks

  • An understanding of systems thinking

  • Communication and influence skills 

  • Unity and a shared purpose

Topics we cover include

  • Legacy leadership
  • Systems thinking
  • Long-term planning
  • Management - governance dynamics
  • Risk management
  • Community engagement
  • Bureaucracy and regulation
  • Performance management
  • Service levels and satisfaction
  • Organisational transformation


  • Starts at $25K NZD/AUD (+ travel, and GST, if any)

Proven results

Strategic Public Leaders has transformed relationships, decision quality and strategic implementation at Councils across Australia and New Zealand. Are you next?

I have to use that overused word: "transformative"! This programme clarified and validated a lot of hazy thoughts I had re: strategic thinking and leadership. It has also given me a lot of practical info which I'm looking forward to applying at work.
Greater Wellington Regional Council
Engaging, credible, love the no-nonsense, straight-talking. There are some short-term changes we're going to make - like more critically reviewing the agendas going up to Council, and kicking off each of our focus groups with time to set the bigger picture. There are some longer term behaviour things (like answering questions with 'serve the room') that I'm going to work on too. Thanks very much Alicia - I'm really hoping this will spark a step change for us.
Frances Smorti
Manawatu District Council
Fantastic - I loved Alicia's ability to engage with everyone regardless of age/background/experience; knowledge of the sector and the common issues; ability to distil complex issues; incredible energy! Thanks - we will be a better Council because of you and this workshop
City of Darwin
This course completely took me out of the day to day noise and gave me tools to focus on what is going to make a difference. Took me out of my ego. It's not about me delivering more/better/bigger, it's about having an impact and doing it in a way that works for the people impacted.
Greater Wellington Regional Council
Knowledgeable, relatable, engaging and most of all fun. Learning is easy when it’s fun.
Greater Wellington Regional Council
I enjoyed the relaxed nature of the session and the interaction between councillors and staff. We are all working towards the same goal which is to make our place a better place for the community. We can disagree but still work towards this goal. no concerns. The two days were fantastic and well facilitated by Alicia who definitely knows her stuff and knows how to get everyone to participate.
Daryl Morgan
Mildura Rural City Council
I noticed over the course of the 2 days a definite shift in elected member approach to be more inviting of real conversation and acceptance of good public leadership principles. The workshop content and the presentation by Alicia was outstanding. Well balanced and honest content, and extremely well delivered
City of Darwin
The valuable things we learned were about approaching Council business more constructively & with more self honesty. Alicia's facilitation was brilliant, and I'll be using the methods you introduced us to over the 2 days.
Mark Eckel
Mildura Rural City Council
A reassuring reminder that delivering the 'product' of community good is really hard....and trade-offs are hard....but we really just need to start making them. We are not being effective or achieving our outcomes by continuing to try to do/ deliver everything to everyone....we need to start deciding who we are going to let down and how (and who) we are going to tell them.
Greater Wellington Regional Council
Really can't say enough times how great and on point for me as a newly first time elected member and by purposely sitting away from others on my Board I felt I also got a huge amount of sharing by experienced elected members. Alicia's facilitation was superb.
Nola Fox
Horowhenua District Council
Thank you so much - it was such an important initiative and has made an enormous difference already, can't wait to see where we will be at further down the track.
City of Darwin

Council case studies

Learn how Strategic Public Leaders transformed relationships and effectiveness at three very different Councils across Australia.

Happy Council clients include

Mildura Rural City Council logo Ipwea Logo ALGA logo Tamworth Logo CHBDC Logo Environment Canterbury Logo Dubbo Regional Council logo Porirua City Council logo Greater Wellington Regional Council logo Hamilton City Council logo Experience Wellington logo Manawatu District Council logo GORE logo Waitaki District Council logo Upper Hutt City Council logo Dunedin City Council logo Masterton DC logo Ashburton DC logo Hutt City Logo ALGIM logo Mackenzie DC logo Taupo DC logo Glen Eira CC logo City of Darwin logo BOPRC logo South Gippsland Shire Council logo Katherine Town Council logo

Looking for manager training?

Check out Strategy Skills for Local Government


The business case for strategic leadership

Strategic leaders operate with a long-term vision, and take immediate action toward a better future.

When leaders are strategic, they play a long game, carefully build relationships and shape organisations to serve communities and deliver lasting impact. 

With more strategic leaders at the helm, your teams make decisions that turn your vision and direction into actionable programmes of work.

Decisions stick, managers are confident and engaged, and there is high trust between governance, management and community stakeholders, enabling everyone to focus on what they do best.

Snippet from an ALGA Masterclass, June 2022. Alicia McKay explains the difference between public and private sector strategy.

Enquire about SPL for your Council

Note: Limited dates remain for 2024.

Enquire below and click through to book a meeting with Alicia.


Big Picture Thinking

When politicians and professionals come together to shape their community's future, magic happens.

Learn how Alicia McKay supported this local Council to clarify their long-term vision and set strategic priorities for progress.

Then, enquire about Alicia's support with your community plan or organisational strategy.