Better Leadership

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

  • Care: Care for yourself and others by focusing on relationships, embracing uncertainty to help build an infinite mindset in your organisation where you trust the long term development of people driving towards a just cause
  • Charisma: Demonstrate charisma via your passion, using clear language and storytelling to help others understand and follow the cause
  • Character: Have character and courage to live out the values of your organisation, including being willing to take personal risk to challenge the status quo

Taking time to think about why leadership is important in your organisation and how it can be measured and improved over time is no easy matter. Effective leadership is critical to several factors, including staff performance, customer satisfaction and innovation. Highlighted below are three qualities, together with references and further reading to help shape your own leadership style and organisational mindset.


Care for Yourself – To be effective leaders, we must be good at caring for ourselves. To take a quote from (Ref.001): “The way that we manage ourselves is a central part of being an effective leader. It is vital to recognise that personal qualities like self-awareness, self-confidence, self-control, self-knowledge, personal reflection, resilience and determination are the foundation of how we behave”.

Caring for ourselves means doing the little things every day that help improve our mind, body and general well-being. A regular routine helps establish a framework for success. Charles Duhigg’s book “The Power of Habit” highlights how small “keystone habits” can help propel success in your personal and work life. A routine makes time to do the little things required over a period of time, rather than wildly swinging from one thing to the next. Your routine should include time for personal reflection to help establish strong self-awareness of what you’re doing, feeling and ideally some level of “external assessment”. This could be from a colleague, business partner or elsewhere, but it must be measured, fair and impartial. However, you must recognise that self-awareness is difficult and studies have shown that only 10-15% of people are actually self-aware, whereas 95% of people believe they are aware (Ref.003). Further, self-awareness that isn’t kept in check can result in a spiral of introspection that leads to increased stress, decreased happiness and a general feeling of being less in control (Ref.003).

A routine, together with a log of the things you have achieved across your personal, family and work life helps motivate you and builds trust with people around you that you have dedicated time and effort to objectives that go beyond personal interests.

Care for Others – Caring for others goes beyond a simple thank you, no matter how much you mean it. Empathy is a generally accepted good practice of good leadership, even although there is evidence to suggest no causal relationship with emotional intelligence or your “emotional quotient” (Ref.004). The old saying of “walking in the other person’s shoes” holds especially true for good leadership, even just for a short while on a regular basis to help understand someone else’s point of view. This concept should be embraced both by managers and individuals who are being managed to help nurture a genuine and caring environment where people want each other to do well. Similar to the care you should be showing for yourself, try and build regular engagement with those around you, encouraging and motivating them in the areas they clearly enjoy and excel at.

An organisation that does not value and promote staff well-being is ultimately constrained to deliver only the bare essentials of what people feel they can or should deliver. Staff well-being is strongly influenced by your culture and whether individuals are united in their vision of what your organisation needs to do and people feel empowered to make changes to work towards this vision. Remember, a vision is a long-term goal you may never achieve, whereas a mission relates to the “now” and the things you are doing to realise that vision.

Ensure your staff have clear goals and are inspired to achieve them. Provide sufficient support where they are undertaking a role that stretches their skills and do not expect someone to fulfill a role that ultimately does not fit their personality. For example, if someone is particularly creative, but not well organised, they may find a role that requires a high degree of organisation very restrictive. Similarly, someone used to a consistent pattern of working may find creative roles unsettling and struggle to find a good starting point on any one day, let alone one week.

Caring for others will help your organisation achieve an “infinite mindset”, where you trust the long term development of people driving towards a just cause (Ref.002).


Feeling happy and confident is not enough to be an effective leader, particularly in a large organisation. Charisma is defined as “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others”, In other words, as well as being able to clearly articulate a vision or strategy, you must be able to inspire others to want to achieve this. This does not mean you need to be an extrovert. Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg and Abraham Lincoln are all examples of famous introverted leaders, who utilise(d) their energy and passion about subjects they believe in, causing others around them to observe and follow. If you need more evidence of how powerful followership can be, look no further than (Ref.005). Charisma is not the only aspect involved in followership, but it certainly helps. Be passionate, using clear language and storytelling to help others understand and follow.


Having a strong sense of character can be defined as understanding your own mental and moral qualities and values, and ensuring you live by these on a consistent basis. Your values in particular must reflect those of the organisation you work. For example, if your organisation encourages you to support other individuals, to try out new things, then you must be prepared for mistakes to be made. If mistakes are made or problems arise, you should be proactive in engagement with the individuals or group and encourage them to act such that the chances of the same mistake happening again are nullified. Similarly, if your organisation encourages you to challenge the status quo, including observing issues outside your immediate remit, you must be prepared to take some personal risk associated with surfacing these issues, including showing strong resilience when faced with opposition.

Measuring Leadership

The NHS leadership model (Ref.001) is a good example of a maturity model associated with leadership. Interestingly, all the leadership behaviours can be characterised under one or more of Care, Charisma or Character, with the exception of “Evaluating information”. Although care and engagement in your organisation is part of obtaining information through informal observation, other “cold metrics” can be utilised. This maturity model provides a basis for measuring leadership provided you have the means to collect the information – e.g. staff surveys, customer feedback and idea management.

Behaviours in the NHS leadership model:

  • Inspiring shared purpose – Charisma, Character, Care
  • Leading with Care – Care
  • Evaluating information –
  • Connecting our service – Care, Charisma
  • Sharing the vision – Charisma, Character, Care
  • Engaging the team – Charisma, Care
  • Holding to account – Character, Care
  • Developing capability – Charisma, Character, Care
  • Influencing for results – Charisma, Character, Care