What does leadership mean to you?

GCS celebrated Leadership Month in March, and has recently published a series of videos exploring what good leadership looks like. Now, it’s a good time to reflect upon what colleagues might have learnt from the masterclasses, practical workshops, discussion panels and Q&As the GCS Professional Development team delivered.

What makes a leader?

First and foremost, the concept of leadership is not about hierarchy, or just being a line manager.

Mariesa Howlett, Professional Development Manager, explains:

“At GCS we should all aim to be leaders in our everyday words and actions. The behaviours of great leaders are not innate; they can be learned and lived by each of us, by investing the time to study and reflect. Find out more about our new learning and development offer on the GCS Curriculum page.”

Resilient and empathetic

It is often the case that our leadership is tested when facing adversity. Building resilience in challenging times was one of the key aspects covered during Leadership Month. The meaning of empathetic leadership and what active listening mean in practice were also discussed in these sessions.

Jo Pennington, GCS Head of Standards, Performance and Innovation, says:

“While most of us are still working from home, juggling different professional and personal responsibilities, we need more than ever to be collaborative and empathetic towards our colleagues.

“I believe empathy and active listening are among the most important traits for any leader. I manage a busy team of eight with a wide remit, so I rely on the expertise and knowledge of my colleagues to deliver the work. Active listening, trust and accommodating my team’s needs are vital to making sure we’re able to deliver.”

Supportive and inclusive

Imposter syndrome is something that many of us encounter daily. It affects people in different ways, no matter how successful they are. Famous examples of individuals with imposter syndrome include Daniel Radcliffe and Michelle Obama.

It is important to find practical ways in your teams to help colleagues who struggle with this experience, need to boost their confidence, or feel anxious about the quality of their work.

Graham Millward, Learning, Development and Insight Officer at the Department for Work and Pensions, who delivered a workshop on the imposter syndrome phenomenon highlights:

“Creating a culture of recognition and praise may help colleagues who feel they have imposter syndrome. Recognising people’s achievements and supporting them will give people a hand in feeling more positive towards their work.”

Emotionally intelligent

Developing emotional intelligence was another key skill discussed in the sessions throughout March. Being aware of your emotional state and communicating it to your team is essential, especially when working from home.

Catherine Nice, Learning and Development Manager at National Savings and Investments, explains:

“It’s crucial to understand that emotions, as such, are neither good nor bad. It is really only up to us to decide how to channel them that really matters. Managing emotions is something to learn and practice.”

Diverse and inclusive

A session on gender and leadership explored certain gendered stereotypes and informal rules that can limit potential and organisational productivity, for example what others view as strong leadership. Leadership is, often, an invisible and powerful ingredient in the success of an organisation or team.

Sasha Fuller, Deputy Director of External Communications at the House of Commons, says:

“Given organisations are constructed by people and not machines, leadership can provide the glue, the motivation and the way through, especially when we are buffeted by external complexity and events. Leadership can help turn groups of very different individuals motivated by different things into high performing teams at great places to work, while also helping to navigate different asks from other parts of an organisation.”

Sasha also encouraged all communicators to be aware of the implications, not only of gender stereotypes, but unhelpful stereotyping across all the varied characteristics that make up the GCS.

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