The true value(s) of a good leader

By Cassandra Woolgar, Business Psychologist and Partner, Leadership Services Practice

The idea of a single-industry-specific career is very rare in today’s society. At executive and especially non-executive level there is much more traversing of sectors than ever before as skills and experience become increasingly interchangeable. In the built environment and housing sectors this is certainly the case, as more diverse perspectives and backgrounds are sought. This provides a real opportunity to bring in a diversity of leadership styles and approaches allowing sectors and organisations to grow and evolve.

However, what is really important in any cross-sector transition is a marriage of organisational values. Regardless of sectoral experience or skill, there must be a connection with the core purpose of the organisation. We work very closely with our clients to ensure this, and our in-house team of business psychologists are expert in supporting this work. We have shared some key areas for consideration below.

Culture is king
Culture, working environment and values are more important than ever in recruitment. It can be the difference between retaining top talent, satisfaction in a role and crucially the culture and tone set by leaders for the rest of the organisation.


What matters to me
When we look for the right candidates we assess personality and key values. This helps us to understand what is important to an individual and the type of leader they will be and therefore the culture they may promote for their people.

When we are coaching individuals and they talk about leaving a role due to it ‘not feeling right’ we can often trace it back to a mis-match of their own values and the values or culture of the organisation.

In our exploration of values and key drivers of leaders we consider their need for recognition and responsibility, work-life balance and enjoyment of a role, how much they value tradition, how important a sense of security is to them and the commercial aspects of work. This is significant to ensure we align the role, the organisation and the leader to find the right match.


Impact to the organisation
A leader who values people taking on responsibilities, receiving recognition for their work, traditional hierarchies and commercial aspects of work can create a very different working environment for others, compared to a leader who values making a difference to others, helping people feel part of something bigger than themselves and an openness to innovation.

We take account of how much a leader focuses on people, helping others and feeling part of a team, how open they are to innovations, how likely they are to respect other people’s judgements and what importance they place on data and evidence or gut instinct in decision making.


Sector satisfaction is essential
When moving sectors leaders often have transferable practical skills to help the transition, but to make a real success of it we often find that a value alignment with the new sector or organisation is key. It can help an individual to find their feet in the role and to apply those pre-existing skills in the right context for the organisation.

Often people move sectors in order to put their skills to better use in terms of making a difference to others and having a positive impact. We tend to see such leaders with profiles indicating a willingness to take on leadership roles and responsibilities but underpinned by a drive to make a difference rather than a drive for their own status, ego or progression.

Cassandra Woolgar
Business Psychologist and Partner in our Leadership Services Practice

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