Exploring future leadership

The first of several posts on this subject….

Photo credit: David Pearson for One Team Gov on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons

Improving public sector leadership is one of One Team Gov’s five goals for the coming year. We’ve been working with civil servants to develop a new perspective on leadership, and connecting with different people and groups thinking about alternative ways to lead.

To start understanding this topic better, we recently asked Twitter what they think great future leadership is; this post sums up what they told us. We’d love to hear what you think.

This is likely to be one of a series of posts. You can share your views here, via Twitter or via contact@oneteamgov.uk

What we heard

We asked Twitter:

“What are the characteristics of future leadership in the Civil Service?”

This is what people said, in themes. We’ve amended people’s words slightly for clarity.


  • Be able to listen, really listen, then act.
  • Have a good pair of listening ears.

Empowers and trusts

  • Understands what drives people and creates the space for them to be their best self.
  • Trust people to do their jobs and give them space to try.
  • Building great teams, supporting them, giving growth and training opportunities, being the cheerleader, creating space for innovation, and opening doors.
  • Empowering people to communicate and act around the real needs of service users.
  • Trust people want to do their best.
  • Empower people to make their own mistakes.
  • Set direction not boundaries.


  • The ‘I know when to ask for help’ resilience. Resilience is flexible, not stubbornly rigid.


  • A change leader.
  • Flourishing in ambiguity.
  • Agile and flexible working needs to be led from the top as future leaders will most likely be made in the image of the current leadership.
  • Flexibility to adapt.
  • Understanding how to reduce waste and improve efficiency.


  • Courage to speak up for what is right.
  • Respectful of the democratic process whilst able to advise and warn without fear or favour.
  • Courage to say when they are wrong.
  • Willingness to challenge traditional ways of working. Understanding of the legacy of the civil service, but willing to look beyond legacy processes and systems to change things.


  • Faith (and pride) in your fellow civil servants.
  • Passionately care about the humans they work with.


  • Understand we’re all users. Focus on ‘the why’ i.e. creating, maintaining or establishing the best public service available etc. and providing the infrastructure to enable innovation. Consider how government and social entrepreneurs can enact public sector outcome.
  • Awareness that life for most people does not revolve around Whitehall & London does not = the UK.
  • Get to know people and care about them.


  • Consistency leads to clarity, trust and a safer working environment.
  • Quality of deliverables instead of amount.

Diverse and inclusive

  • Diverse and inclusive, not just in terms of characteristics but also the ways we work.
  • Diverse and reflective of society, inclusive and silo busting in their approach, bold and visionary with the highest ambition for those they serve. Inclusive by default.
  • Representative of communities we serve by building a truly diverse team, from all walks of life, from all parts of the country, embracing all opinions, work patterns, caring responsibilities and being there for all people whilst having the emotional intelligence to be respectful.
  • Being able to find real strength in difference.
  • Different from each other — it would be great to see some of those who are more introverted succeed just by being really good at what they do.
  • Encourage people to challenge.
  • Take multiple perspectives.

Authentic and connected to people

  • Leadership comes from doing, leading by example, supporting your experts, and offering direction and confidence.
  • Shares stories. Laughs with people.
  • Be generous with praise and understanding of mistakes.
  • Use non-corporate language and allow people to have fun.
  • Integrity and loyalty, and loyalty with integrity.


  • Ability to set a vision and to make it come to life through dialogue, engagement, and empowerment of their team.
  • Lead by example, clear on what they want.
  • Ask different questions.


  • Collaborative and decisive.
  • Creates partnerships/networks.
  • Balanced in their approach.
  • Be a multiplier.
  • See in systems.

Open and vulnerable

  • Leaders need to acknowledge failure and have the drive and willingness to try new things.
  • Create the space for collective learning.
  • Humility to learn.
  • Not being afraid to try something, fail and learn from it.
  • Openness to new and different ideas.

Links people sent:

Next steps and microactions

We’re going to carry on exploring and writing about leadership as we make more connections. Our microaction is to write the next blogpost in this series. You can help by:

  • sharing this blogpost (one minute);
  • sharing an extra idea on leadership with us (five minutes); or
  • share a case study about leadership (good or bad) that you’ve experienced (half an hour). You can reply here, on twitter or via contact@oneteamgov.uk. We’ll take the time with you to shape it up if you need it.