· 1 min read · Features

A framework for effective leadership


We should re-examine leadership because there's generally too much focus on those at the top

Way before it emerged in the early 2000s as a leadership theory I’ve been a strong believer in the concept of ‘distributed leadership’. This means recognising the leadership impact of managers and colleagues at every level of an organisation.

My belief is not based on any academic research, but rather on personal experience. I’ve observed the effect individuals can have on workplaces through the way they behave, often acting as role models to their peers.

I’ve seen first-hand the wider impact of a positive and solutions-focused approach from someone who’s crucial in enabling others to do their job, and of managers who see connections and go out of their way to share information and expertise rather than keeping things to themselves.

I’m sure I’m not alone in having experienced the power of leadership aligned at every level to shared goals: I’ve also observed the damaging consequences of the alternative model of a hierarchical and excluding approach, which insufficiently recognises the value of colleagues whatever their position in the organisation.

As chief executive of Acas it’s reassuring to find that my personal views are confirmed by what my expert colleagues have learned from their millions of contacts with employers and employees every year.

The key message from the new Acas Framework for effective leadership is that supervisors and managers at all levels play a crucial part in successful organisations, with a different mix of characteristics required in different roles.

In summary, whatever their position in the hierarchy, leaders need to:

  • Know their stuff, whether this is around the fundamentals of managing people, such as employment law and organisational policies, or about identifying and managing strategic risks and opportunities.
  • Refine their skills, constantly seeking to improve their influence, communication and engagement with their people.
  • Be aware of their organisational responsibilities, not just in functional terms but also in terms of leading by example through behaviour aligned to organisational values and culture.
  • Strive for essential personal characteristics, including personal resilience, emotional intelligence and the ability to build trust.

Our framework is unapologetically practical rather than theoretical. Its draws on our experience of working with organisations and managers across the spectrum and hearing about their challenges. I’d be fascinated to know what you think about our approach. Either leave a comment here or email policypublications@acas.org.uk.

Anne Sharp is chief executive of Acas