Important communication skills for leaders include listening, praising people for their work, delegating tasks clearly and managing meetings

Become an inspiring leader by:

  • building your confidence in your engagement
  • empowering teams to deliver
  • communicate effectively with stakeholders

Use this information to discuss your professional development plan (PDP) with your line manager. Read about the different levels in our learning strategy.

On this page:

Read (introductory)


Our leadership guidance and the following titles can help you gain a better understanding of leadership.

Our Leadership Framework sets out what great communication leadership looks like.

Zoom screenshot showing 20 portraits men and women

Book: ‘Storynomics: Story-Driven Marketing in the Post-Advertising World’

Robert McKee and Thomas Gerace translate the lessons of storytelling in business into economic and leadership success.

Book: ‘Leaders Eat Last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t’

The follow up to Simon Sinek’s bestseller ‘Start with why’. An investigation into how leaders can inspire their people with a ‘circle of safety’.

Book: ‘Lean In: Women work and the will to Lead’

Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) draws on her own experience of working in some of the world’s most successful businesses to show how women can empower themselves, unlock top leadership roles and achieve their full potential.

Book: ‘Coaching for performance’

John Whitmore provides a simple to understand yet powerful guide to coaching.

Book: ‘No Hard Feelings: Emotions at Work and How They Help Us Succeed’

Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy help you to figure out which emotions to toss, which to keep to yourself, and which to express in order to be both happier and more effective.

Book: ‘Black Box Thinking’

Matthew Syed argues why we all need to endure failures from time to time as only through learning from our own version of a black box we can succeed in highly complex organisations of today.

Book: ‘The Science of Storytelling’

Will Storr reminds us that stories are a great form of communication and a one of the most fundamental parts of our existence. Storr examines the types of stories that are at the heart of our civilisation and the dramatic questions stories try and answer. He looks at how plots develop and the idea of the seven recurring plots in any story from overcoming the monster to tragedy.

Book: ‘Strategic Public Relations Leadership’

Anne Gregory and Paul Willis discuss how public relations is operating in an increasingly challenging and complex environment. Pressures from outside the organisation include new accountabilities, empowered stakeholders, increased public cynicism and a new communication landscape.

Book: ‘Emotional agility: get unstuck, embrace change and thrive in work and life’

Susan David, Ph.D. a renowned psychologist and expert on emotions, happiness, and achievement, draws on her more than twenty years of research to show that emotionally agile people are not immune to stresses and setbacks.

Article: ‘The Coronavirus Leadership Challenge’

This article explains why leaders must rely on agility, transparency and forward-thinking strategies to steer their organisations effectively through the COVID-19 crisis.

Read (advanced)

Book: ‘Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most’

Difficult Conversations is the definitive work by Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen on handling these unpleasant exchanges, based on 15 years of research at the Harvard Negotiation Project.

Book: ‘HBR 10 must reads on leadership’

A compilation of the most important leadership articles to help you maximise your own and your organisation’s performance assembled by the Harvard Business Review.

Book: ‘Grit: The power of passion and perseverance’

Angela Duckworth, a pioneering psychologist, shows anyone striving to succeed that the secret to outstanding achievement is not just talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”

Book: ‘Leadership’

Rudolph Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York City, details his time in office. This account includes his experience about revitalising the economy, reducing crime and his approach to policing, and his experience and response to the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

Book: ‘The Prime Ministers: Reflections on Leadership from Wilson to May’

Steve Richards, a seasoned British journalist, discusses what leadership lessons we can learn from the men and women who have defined the UK’s role in the modern world. The book reveals a history of leadership at a time of unprecedented political upheavals.

Watch or listen (introductory)

Recorded webinar: How to manage and improve difficult relationships 

Learn about building and improving relationships through the ‘STEP’ approach: understand the situation, build trust, develop empathy, and progress the relationship.

Please ask the development adviser in your department for the password. Alternatively, contact us (gcsbookings@cabinetoffice.gov.uk) for the details.

Podcast: IMPACT20: the national conversation

IMPACT20: The National Conversation Podcast, brings together leaders from across business and society to share their views on what an inclusive economy should look like for the UK.

The Inclusive Economy Partnership (IEP) podcast discusses some of the most pervasive issues in our society including financial inclusion, inequality and mental health, and how business, government and society can get together to solve these problems.

Listen to the podcast

Video: The 7 habits of highly effective people

After studying the habits of successful people for over 25 years, Stephen Covey realised that there are 7 habits that are practised by the most effective people. This video summarises the habits into 7 examples.

Watch the TED Talk: The 7 habits of highly effective people (7 minutes)

Video: Why Leaders Eat Last

An in-depth lecture exploring the themes in Simon Sinek’s book ‘Leaders Eat Last’ focusing on building trust.

Watch: Why Leaders Eat Last (1 hour 8 minutes YouTube)

Video: Bring your whole self to work

Mike Robbins challenges everyone to bring your whole, complete being to work.

Watch the TED Talk: Bring your whole self to work (12 minutes)

Video: The first follower is the most important

According to Derek Silvers, the first follower is a form of a leader in and of themselves. Using funny videos of people dancing in a park, he discusses how movements start and why it is important to respect both leaders and followers.

Watch the TED Talk: How to start a movement (5 minutes YouTube)

Video: Grit is the power of passion and perseverance

Angela Lee Duckworth believes that every leader should demonstrate a certain degree of grit in their everyday routine. Through her research, she found out that students with high levels of grit rather than intelligence or talent are more likely to succeed.

Watch the TED Talk: Grit – the power of passion and perseverance (5 minutes)

Video: Your body language may influence who you are

Body language has an impact on how others perceive us, but it may also change how we feel about ourselves. Amy Cuddy discusses that “power posing”, standing in a gesture of confidence, may boost confidence even we do not have that feeling.

Watch the TED Talk: Your body language may shape who you are (21 minutes YouTube)

Video: Leading like an orchestra conductor

Itay Talgam discusses what lessons business leaders can learn from conductors. The best leaders engage with their employees, who demonstrate passion, and who can understand different stories.

Watch the TED Talk: Lead like the great conductors (19 minutes)

Video: Being an army general

Retired general Stanley McChrystal thinks that trust is the most important quality a leader can develop in their subordinates. Only complete trust enables better communication, planning and action. Importantly, leaders should listen and learn from their teams to establish trust.

Watch the TED Talk: Listen, learn… then lead (15 minutes)

Video: Happiness leads to more productivity

We think that we need to work to be happy, but could that be backwards? Psychologist Shawn Achor explains that people can be happy, then be productive, then be even happier.

Watch the TED Talk: The happy secret to better work (12 minutes YouTube)

Video: How great leaders inspire action

Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership that starts with a golden circle and the ‘why’ question. His TED talk includes examples such as Apple, Martin Luther King Jr, and the Wright brothers.

Watch the TED Talk: How great leaders inspire action (18 minutes)

Video: There’s more to business than profit

Harish Manwani believes that “profit is not always the point”. Leaders in the 21st century should regard responsibility, especially when it comes to value, purpose, and sustainability.

Watch the TED Talk: Profit is not always the point (7 minutes)

Video: Developing work-life balance

Work-life balance is too important to be left in the hands of your boss. Nigel Marsh discusses an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time, and productivity.

Watch the TED Talk: How to make work-life balance work (13 minutes)

Video: There’s no ‘how-to’ for leaders

There is no manual to help new leaders understand and become better in their roles. Nevertheless, according to Fields Wicker-Miurin, leaders who came before often provide enough insight to help anyone inspire, organise, and lead.

Watch the TED Talk: Learning from leadership’s missing manual (16 minutes)

Video: Greatness

This Inno-Versity Inno-Mation was adapted from Captain David Marquet’s talk on Greatness, and is based on his book, Turn the Ship Around!

Watch the video: Greatness (9 minutes)

Watch or listen (advanced)

Video: How to master anything: PEAK

In this animation based on Anders Ericsson’s 10,000 hours book learn about the importance of deliberate practice on the path to becoming an expert.

Watch: How to master anything: PEAK (7 minutes YouTube)

Video: Why should anyone be led by you?

Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones discuss the CASE framework –  a central element of Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?™

Watch: Why should anyone be led by you? (10 minutes YouTube)

Do (introductory)

Course: Unconscious bias (essential)


This hour-long course helps you to understand unconscious bias and how it affects attitudes and behaviours.

Learning outcomes:

  • practical techniques that will help you reduce the impact of unconscious bias
  • create a more inclusive and diverse team.

Course available on Civil Service Learning.

Academy: Presenting with Impact


During this course – newly adapted to a virtual training format – you will gain awareness, impact and confidence in your delivery of a presentation.

The training is a full day, hosted on Zoom. It is highly interactive, with small groups of delegates, and regular screen breaks

Learning outcomes:

  • explore your strengths and learn how to address weaknesses, through the use of visual and vocal tools, filming and playback
  • new techniques to maximise impact with your content, mindset (tackling nerves), addressing common challenges (including a new section on conducting virtual presentations)
  • learn to adapt your presentation style as appropriate for different audiences. 

This course is worth 10 CIPR and CPD points.

Do (advanced)

The Academy courses are scheduled throughout the year, check our listing to book upcoming courses, webinars and events.

GCS Accelerated Development Programmes

Our accelerated development programmes are key to raising our standards, developing inspiring leadership, and ensuring we have diversity in our senior leadership, reflecting the society we serve.

Accelerated development programmes

Leadership Academy

The Leadership Academy holds regular learning events for civil servants: Learning events calendar

Civil Service Learning

The Civil Service Learning platform often hundreds of free and paid training courses tailored to various professions and grades.

This is a list of recommendations for free training courses on the topic of leadership:

Planning and implementing change

How to articulate your vision and rationale for change to the people most affected by it.

Developing people

Understand your role in developing the individuals in your team.

Attendance management

Poor attendance can be costly. It can affect team performance, productivity, morale and even retention.

Leadership in action

Leadership in Action presents eight attributes of leadership we see in action everyday across the Civil Service when leaders are at their best.

Managing poor performance

This topic shows you how to deal with poor performance before it has a detrimental effect on the team as a whole.


Share what you learn with your colleagues. If you are interested in becoming a trainer on a course, contact us at gcs@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.  

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