CSC's Leadership Trainer Keith Bleasdale

Leadership Isn't an Inimitable Talent: You Just Need the Right Teacher

By Mason Quah, Marketing Assistant

It's easy to view leadership as an innate talent and not a trained skill. Our history and culture endlessly talk about 'born leaders', and it's easy to view them as wielding a gift that cannot be imitated.


A major weakness of relying on that 'X factor' for leadership is that everyone believes they possess more of it than the people around them.


CSC's leadership trainer, Keith Bleasdale, said:


"Nearly everyone overestimates their leadership performance. Indeed, Gallup research in 2022 identified that 97% of people considered themselves good leaders, whilst 69% of people said their leader's performance was lacking. The mismatch is jaw-dropping!"


In almost every other area of performance, we recognize that talent is only a groundwork for improvement. A born athlete or a scientific prodigy will still lag if denied proper coaching and opportunities to improve themselves, and the same is true of leadership. The main thing that holds back most people's potential as a leader is the belief that either they cannot or do not need to improve. A trained leader can wield techniques and methods that simply won't occur to someone with only intuition to guide them.


This idea that leadership is innate and not learned can also lead to misconceptions about how we apply it. Bleasdale spoke on the biggest misconceptions and unexpected gains among the people he's trained:


"Perhaps the most common example is an awareness and basic capability to coach. It remains such a misunderstood concept, but when people 'get' it, they 'really get' it!"

Modern leadership is not about wielding power over your subordinates but drawing out their abilities to help them achieve their best. Keith's models of leadership move away from a more traditional style of confrontational leadership to a cooperative effort.

People join a company and leave a boss.


A leader who struggles to bring out the best in the people under them will struggle to hold them. Ipsos research found that the second most common cause of job dissatisfaction is having a poor line manager or direct supervisor, losing out only to pay disputes. This is followed by other elements tied into leadership, such as the feeling of not being listened to, and negative office cultures. This has led to the adage in HR circles that 'people join a company and leave a boss'.


"Very often, it is the dynamic with your immediate leader which has such a profound impact on how you feel about work: You work better if you never have that horrible Monday morning feeling and are actually happy at work."

Figure 1 The progression of leadership styles over history: Which has impacted you most prominently?


A well-trained leader is able to address these common grievances people have towards leaders. Gallup studies have linked specific leadership skills to better performance. In particular, the type of leadership skills that can be trained: Playing to people's strengths, giving good feedback, and maintaining a positive attitude in stressful situations.


Feedback isn't a high-pitched buzz on the Zoom call


"Another big learn comes from the conversation around feedback. The best leaders are always attentive to raising people's capabilities, yet we all avoid giving feedback for a whole variety of reasons. But truly, feedback is a gift, and the best leaders step up to their responsibility to give it."

The majority of people would prefer more feedback from the people above them: Receiving feedback on a daily or weekly basis rather than relegating it to annual reviews greatly improves how well people are engaged with their work. Nearly 7 in 10 people say they would work harder if they saw a genuine response to their work in the form of different feedback from their managers. Lack of feedback not only cuts productivity but increases turnover. Feeling out where the line is between giving ongoing feedback and micromanaging is a difficult skill to learn, and it can change as people build confidence and competency.

A leader is constantly working to improve


"Leaders have this constant drive to keep improving things: If what you're interested in is maintaining the status quo, then you might be a good manager but you're not a leader." This drive for improvement is more important in today's information economy, where leaders are forced into new situations. Bleasdale notes that even if the core skills that make up leadership are the same social skills that have always been in use, they need to be used in ever-changing ways.

"Today, leaders wrestle with so many new or accentuated challenges, such as an ever-more transparent world that exposes leaders to relentless scrutiny; to building close bonds with colleagues despite the acceleration into a more 'virtual' world; to embracing and role modelling Equality & Diversity; and building loyalty amongst colleagues whilst accepting that oftentimes it won't be reciprocated."

"All of these factors, and many more, are changing the context of leadership, and with that are placing huge demands on their capability. The benefits of getting it right are as high and attractive as they ever were, but the costs of getting it wrong are bigger, and they come quicker, than ever before!


Keith describes how the skills developed in the workshop don't only apply in the office, and he himself has found some of the techniques useful at the personal level as well: "As a 'People Pleaser', I am always amazed at how effectively the technique we share for 'Saying No' works: Not only does it rarely lead to any relationship damage, most of the time it builds the relationship."

He adds that while leadership changes how you approach other areas of your life, they also impact what type of leader you can be:

"There is no such thing as a 'non-leadership skill'. Every skill you add to your toolkit is a valuable addition. You just never know when you might want to rely upon it, and leadership is so diverse and multi-faceted that I truly believe 'the more tools the better'!"


The courses offered by the Civil Service College are tailored to meet the needs of specific organisations and departments. Whichever area of leadership you are aiming to expand into, we can provide high-quality training to help you meet your leadership needs.

Training Catalogue

Complete Training Catalogue
Jan - Dec 2024

New Course

The training aims to help civil servants in ALB sponsorship/partnership roles to gain a deeper insight into the governance and financial management arrangements with which ALBs are expected to comply.

Tailored in-house training

Civil Service College can deliver In-House training within your organisation that is exactly tailored to meet your individual training requirements.

Training Alerts

For more information on how we protect and store your submitted data, please see visit our privacy policy.