Research & Evaluation

The National Leadership Centre will become a global hub for data-driven research on leadership in the public sector.

The Centre’s initial research suggests that the best way to support public sector leaders is to increase their ability to work as a system. To do this successfully, the NLC is:

The portfolio of work that the NLC is delivering will also be monitored and evaluated in partnership with an independent supplier.

Public service leadership for the 21st Century

There is no appetite to create a new leadership model to ‘export’ to other organisations as a part of this work. Creating new boxes for leaders to tick is not the answer. The NLC is developing an approach to leadership that will underpin its work, which aims to encourage a more collaborative way of working across the whole public service system.

To do this, the NLC will take a highly iterative approach and seek out the best evidence about what works, listening carefully to the senior leaders it works with. It will learn from others, developing and collecting new evidence to further this field of knowledge.

The NLC has identified five leadership qualities that appear most relevant to its aims and audience. These initial qualities are: adaptive, connected, questioning, purposeful and ethical.


Adaptive leaders are able to change proactively and constantly learn in a complex, uncertain and volatile world.


Connected leaders are empathic, collaborative thinkers who consistently work across organisational boundaries to build strategic relationships across the public service.


Questioning leaders are open minded and seek to understand the views and experiences of others.


Purposeful leaders display absolute clarity about their mission and purpose, and they are able to see beyond the problems and pressures of the present.


Ethical leaders consistently behave in ways that create trust, and they take a long-term, sustainable approach to fulfilling the organisation’s public service mission.

By helping leaders to enhance these qualities, the NLC can help them to deepen their impact on the organisations they run, the services they lead, and – ultimately – the lives of citizens.

An iterative approach has to start somewhere. Our starting point has been the extensive discussions and interviews that the Public Services Leadership Taskforce conducted with senior leaders. In addition to these discussions, the NLC has surveyed a range of literature. Since 2013, there have been at least nine significant investigations into public service leadership in the 21st Century. From analysis of these investigations, supported by wider desk-based research, these five leadership qualities were identified because they appear most immediately relevant to the National Leadership Centre’s aims and audience