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Can leadership be learned?

Gemma Pearson

11 October 2010

In January 2010 The Work Foundation published its groundbreaking report into high performance leadership, summarised more recently in The International Journal of Leadership in Public Services,
The first report uncovered three key principles that underpin outstanding leadership:

  • a systemic approach to leadership that is long-term, has depth of relationship and breadth in its horizon scanning;
  • a people-orientation that recognises people as the only route to performance; and
  • an understanding that leaders are enablers, not doers or delegators.


In the second phase of the research we have been exploring how these principles can be developed. We have been asking organisations if they have found the research useful and we plan to publish our findings at the end of the year.


The research involves twelve senior managers participating in a leadership development programme designed on the principles of outstanding leadership. The programme was completed in September 2010, and we are now examining the journey of each participant to understand how these principles might be developed and the impact that this process has had on them and others.


We firmly believe that our research should not be left to gather dust on the shelf or sit somewhere in cyber space waiting for download. We work in extremely challenging times and organisations are asking a lot from their employees and even more from their leaders. Though the principles of outstanding leadership are fascinating, it is the practice of outstanding leadership that will make a real difference.


We are keen to hear from organisations that have made use of our research, please contact us at




The full article was originally published in The International Journal of Leadership in Public Services (Volume 6, issue 1).


Further information about the Journal is available at: 

Back contents of the Journal can be viewed at: