What does good leadership mean in practice?

Character and Leadership

An exploration of the concept of good leadership in the sectors of law, finance, technology and business in the UK.

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Research overview

Good leadership at all levels is essential for organisations to fulfil their purpose and contribute to a better future. But what does good leadership mean? Do people at different levels in organisations and from different generations and backgrounds see things the same way? Are there major differences between sectors? What specific features of ‘good leadership’ do employees and organisations expect?

To find out, our research asks UK employees directly: What features or attributes do they associate with ‘good leadership’? Using a layered survey approach, we are exploring the central and peripheral attributes of good leadership across different leadership levels and sectors.

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Our research aims to explore:

  1. The features and attributes associated with the concept of ‘good leadership’ in finance, tech, law, and business more widely
  2. Whether these perceptions differ depending on specific variables of interest

We will take a three-study approach. Study one will invite participants to generate the features and attributes they associate with good leadership in their sector. Study two will then invite participants to rate how central they believe each feature to be for good leadership. From these centrality ratings, a list of central and peripheral features of good leadership will be made. In study three, memory and reaction time allocation tasks will explore whether there is a cognitive difference between central and peripheral features. We will be running a separate prototype analysis for each of our focal sectors: law, finance, technology, and wider business.

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This research will provide insight into how good leadership is understood on the ground in 4 different sectors. It will contribute to theoretical discussions of leadership and provide those engaged in leadership development with leadership profiles that reveal what different groups of employees expect. It will also help reveal similarities and differences between organisational leadership frameworks and employee perspectives.

The combination of surveys, interviews, and our study of corporate values will enable us to triangulate results and develop a well-rounded view of character and leadership in law, finance, technology, and business more widely.