When we consider the qualities of a good or even a great leader within regulation, we have to think first about two key areas: what is a leader’s ultimate purpose and what can get in the way of achieving it.
Leaders need to be clear on their purpose, seek to understand the pressures and drivers affecting those they represent and serve. They must remain resilient to criticism, yet open minded to alternatives. They have to aim to strike the tricky balance of remaining firm and resolute, while also knowing when to flex their position. Leaders do not need to be charismatic champions, but they must at least be clear, rational and convincing communicators.
We have considered some of the key areas that impact those either already in or coming into leadership roles in this sector. We consider these to be where the greatest emphasis of skills, knowledge and development are required to ensure successful leadership.
Ensuring autonomous authority in a supervisory capacity, often on behalf of government directly or indirectly, is the cornerstone of regulation. Yet external pressures can create tension between these twin goals. The role of the media can be challenging and unforgiving, so knowing how to engage and work with the media can often go a long way to influence public perception. A visible leader is one who can manage both their own and the organisation’s reputation, and who has the resilience to manage the challenges this creates.
Technology and Innovation
The emergence of new technologies and the need to embrace them is unavoidable. AI and machine learning will make data capture, interpretation and prediction faster, more reliable and increasingly intuitive. Leaders need to be constantly learning and listening to their teams and through their external networks to spot the opportunities and pitfalls new developments have to offer.
Changing Work Force
Change is inevitable and leaders need to be tuned in to ensure the organisational culture is moving forward. Failure to do so risks staff losses to organisations with better cultural reputations or salaries. If leaders are disinclined to praise and celebrate success, staff will not feel motivated and ultimately undervalued.
Our experience tells us that some qualities are likely to be key differentiators for leaders in the regulation sector. For instance, political acuity – the ability to understand between and within group political dynamics, and the degree to which the leader is perceived to be have integrity. It is important to look for these in a leader.
Leaders in this sector are often extremely smart problem solvers. Those who have risen through the organisational ranks will have done so often due to their exceptional technical competence. The challenge is then how to transition from technician to a leader. Furthermore, new leaders are no longer required to be operational in their focus, but instead required to work through others to achieve a higher purpose. This can be a challenge for many as they progress into the leadership role.
Some of the best leaders we see within the sector are those who balance their passion for what they do with a concern for those who they work with. They create positive and engaged cultures with committed followers, freely expressing thoughts and concerns. Additionally, they embrace diversity of thought and are receptive of challenge whilst prepared to accept if they get it wrong. This is a key point, which should be nurtured and encouraged in a leader.
From the thousands of leaders we have profiled, we know that it is very rare to have the full complementary set of skills and qualities. A good leader will know this about themselves, as well as the limitations of their immediate team and how they might need to complement each other. This heightened level of awareness and acceptance is an important first step. The second is to ensure their followers are clear on their roles and responsibilities, where they fit into the bigger picture and that they have the support and backing of their leader.
The underbelly of leadership
Like most people, leaders are subject to fears and anxieties and perceived threats. For some leaders this can manifest itself in a range of ways and this needs to be managed to prevent a negative bearing on them, their team and the organisation at large.
At Saxton Bampfylde we work closely with our client organisations, whether it’s to select the next leader with the right behaviours and motivations; coaching leaders to make the transition in to their role; or supporting leadership teams and boards to deliver optimally. If you are interested to hear more about how we could work in partnership with you in these areas please do get in touch.
Mike McManamon +44 (0)20 7227 0804