Interview with STEP Programme coaches: Keith Leslie

We are delighted to share insights from four of the STEP Programme coaches. We hear about what motivated them to become coaches and how more can, and should, be done to bring forward and support diverse leaders. They offer advice about what people should be looking for in coach and how to find the right one.

Keith Leslie:

What do you think is different about STEP? What prompted you to become involved?

STEP is really practical – it is all about ‘what should I do in this context?’ and sharing experiences.

What inspired your journey to become a coach or mentor and how does this influence the way in which you coach?

I would say that, for the past 20 years, my primary impact on the world has been through advising, coaching, encouraging, promoting, backing my hunches on people with potential.

What advice would you give people who are looking for a coach?

Make sure to enter the relationship as an equal – you have the answers, not your coach – just use them to ask good questions.

Can you describe a big change you have gone through or helped a client through?

At Samaritans we are taking a venerable high-impact British & Irish institution through radical change where 20,000 people need to actively participate.

Can you talk about an important transition point in your career, why was it important? What support helped you and was there more you wish you had?

When I first became a general manager, it would have been incredibly helpful to have a mentor who said ‘don’t try to do everything yourself, press pause for a bit’.

What has the last year taught us about the need to have more diversity at the leadership level?

We are all leaders now.

What are the barriers to getting more minority ethnic individuals to a leadership level?

Backing our hunches more and opening more doors – realising there are many more doors than we can see.


Keith Leslie – Biography

Keith Leslie is currently Chair of Samaritans. He began his career with Shell in front-line and general management roles, before becoming a partner for consulting firm McKinsey and then at Deloitte, working at a senior level for industry and government before he retired in 2017. But it’s Keith’s wealth of experience in supporting good mental health which made him an exceptional candidate for this new role. He is also currently Chair of Mental Health At Work, a community interest company (CIC) providing expertise around workplace mental health, and in the past he was Chair of Trustees at the Mental Health Foundation, the UK’s oldest mental health charity now focused on the prevention of mental ill health.

Keith’s leadership credentials include two decades of practice in the field, more than 30 articles on leadership, change and restructuring topics published in European Management Journal, McKinsey Quarterly, Wall Street Journal amongst others. His skills in this area also come to the fore with his forthcoming book entitled, A Question of Leadership – Leading Organisational Change in Times of Crisis, which is being published by Bloomsbury on 18th February 2021.

Read further interviews in the series

Rory Campbell

Joyce Sarpong

Robin Hindle Fisher


Find out more about the STEP Programme