Are we providing the right kind of leadership development?

By | August 16, 2017

Sue Smith MBE, Chair of Eskil writes on the subject of the government leader - are we providing suitable leadership development?

The local government sector has a good reputation for hiring staff with excellent professional and technical skills, many of whom are attracted by having strong social values.  Managerial knowledge and skills are also evident throughout the sector as evidenced by the relatively high number of staff who have obtained an MBA, or who have attended short courses. But what about leadership development?

Probably the most underrated aspect of anyone’s development and yet the ability to lead and inspire can make the difference between an average organisation and one with high performance.

Are leaders born or can they be developed?  This question has been addressed by many researchers and philosophers going back as far as Plato.  In the early days, there was an assumption that leaders possessed certain characteristics or traits.

Francis Galton concluded in 1869 that leadership was inherited. In other words, leaders were born, not developed.

However more recent works have concluded that whilst some traits were common amongst leaders, people who were leaders in one situation may not necessarily be leaders in another. This led to leadership no longer being characterised as a trait but more a set of behaviours that were effective in certain situations.  So, this opens the door to the possibility of being able to develop leaders, but what is the best way to realise their potential?

“Recent research on leadership behaviours and styles highlight the importance of emotional intelligence”.
Leaders have been shown to have a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EI) and that this may be more important than technical expertise or IQ.

Emotional Intelligence is the capability of individuals to recognise their own and other people’s emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour, and manage emotions to adapt to environments or achieve goals.

Demonstrating empathy and being a good listener are key to be a successful leader.

A Leadership development programme that is based on the importance of EI could transform the capability of the individual and of whole teams.

A good starting position is to establish the EI baseline by completing a self-assessment or a 360-degree review. Then by creating situations in which participants can practise the key elements of leadership and receive feedback on their impact on others, the development will occur.

Something as simple as “holding up a mirror” so that someone can experience the impact of their approach on those around them, can be illuminating and assist self-awareness.

Access to a leadership mentor can be invaluable to provide advice, support and encouragement when the going gets tough. At the conclusion, the programme, repeating the initial EI self-assessment can help to demonstrate the improvement that has occurred.

Funding for leadership development may not be easy to find when budgets are tight, but the return on investment can be significant. An effective and confident leader can release the potential of staff to achieve greater outcomes and more job satisfaction. They can also have a defining role in the community, working alongside elected members to provide the leadership that benefits everyone. Are you investing in the future of your organisation?


Feel free to contact us to discuss how our experienced facilitators can support you and your leadership development initiatives.

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About Sue Smith

Sue Smith the Chair of Eskil. She has worked in the UK public sector for over 30 years, with the last 12 years as a Chief Executive. She also has extensive experience in non-executive roles in the public, private and third sector. Sue is also currently the Chair of Graven Hill Village Development Company, which is delivering the UK’s largest self and custom build housing project. Other current roles include: Vice President, Confederation of Chinese Business (U.K); Non-Executive Director, Swim England