Friday, 17 February 2023 16:26

Leadership Qualities

The resignation of Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, this week, came as a shock to most of us. The reason she gave for quitting was simply that she felt it was time to go. This followed a similar decision by New Zealand former Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern in January who had decided that she had nothing more to give.

Ms Sturgeon had held the position of Scottish First Minister for over eight years, so her decision to simply throw in the towel has led us to re-visit the topic of leadership qualities and whether ‘knowing when to quit’ is one of them.
Within our Leadership and Management training, discussion and debate around the qualities and traits of great leaders is a common occurrence, as you would probably expect. Indeed, it’s something we analyse during most of our training courses, across all levels from 2 to 5. Perhaps not surprisingly, regardless of at which level the debate is held, the characteristics suggested by our delegates are always very similar.

Typically, we expect to see:

  • Integrity
  • Communication
  • Influence
  • Empathy
  • Courage
  • Respect

However, after asking the question of our trainers, ‘knowing when to quit’ has never been a suggestion made by a delegate during our training. At least no-one ever remembers it being a suggestion. But does that mean that we shouldn’t consider knowing when to quit as a relevant leadership characteristic?

Certainly, there is something to be said for ‘failing quickly’. That is to say, being able to recognise when something probably isn’t going to work out in your favour or to your original plan.
There have been numerous stories from modern business where those in charge keep borrowing and investing time and money into a venture that is doomed. Cutting your losses is often the best tactic in such circumstances, but the skill is knowing when that time has come.

As managers, we may have to make the decision to fail quickly with an employee. If an individual doesn’t display the right aptitude or attitude to do the job they are employed to do, then better to let them go early rather than persevere with someone who will never make the grade. That’s what probationary periods are for after all.

An aspect of Ms Sturgeon’s resignation we should applaud is actually making the decision. As a leader, sometimes making a decision, even of it is potentially the wrong one, can lead to a better outcome than no decision at. Having a team that is floundering and lacking any sense of direction will lead to frustration and conflict.

We should also consider that knowing when to quit isn’t necessarily a sign of failure. Whilst President Putin perhaps takes a different view on this point, stepping aside can be viewed as a courageous move, made for the benefit of the greater good; and courage is a characteristic of leaders that we discuss often.

Our Leadership and Management training courses are already scheduled for the year. Take a look at how you and your team can benefit from ongoing leadership development, accredited by the ILM. We have a new Leadership Programme option too which enables you to get the most cost effective solution. Call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 638 times Last modified on Friday, 17 February 2023 16:43


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