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Breaking the Rules: developing people

Engaging and developing people

... by Anne Topping, leadership consultant, Breaking the Rules

Insights and questions to steer reflection in this area 

Adapted from NHS England (2014) Building and strengthening leadership - leading with compassion. Nov 2014.  http://bit.ly/1KFCUto Originally written for a medical context, the intentions are transferable.


The ability to notice the explicit or unspoken concerns of others, with sufficient emotional resources and practical tools in one’s repertoire to proactively create a constructive and supportive climate and the capacity to respond to situations and emotions requiring special care and attention.

Enabled by

From the literature 
  • Comfortable with ambiguity. Questions more than answers, as a way to harness collective wisdom and develop the ‘right’ solutions. 
  • Willingness to embrace risk, accepts failure (and learning) as part of the process and to let the team do so as well (Catmull, 2014). 
  • Able to offer different levels of support, dependent on the task and the experience of individuals and the group, whether directing, mentoring, coaching or delegating (e.g. Hersey and Blanchard, 1977). 
  • Communicating in ways that respond to different thinking preferences (analytical, creative, empathetic and preservation of order and stability) (e.g. Hermann-Nedhi, 2009). 
From the field 
  • Skills and willingness to provide regular, timely, objective feedback (both appreciative and corrective). “People often don’t see the impact of their own behaviour.” 
  • Establishing clear expectations and standards. “This needs to be blind to seniority, but is particularly important in Exec and senior teams.” 
  • Building capability and confidence for decisions to be made at the right level, and carried out with respect. 
  • Middle managers in tough, pressurised roles, receiving specific interventions, development and support. 

What would this look like for you? 

  • In what ways are you able to role model the behaviours you wish to see demonstrated by others? 
  • In the context of affirmative leadership in mental health and wellbeing, how can you help your team establish what ‘great’ looks like, and the expected minimum level of performance? 
  • In what ways do you help others keep a clear focus on a high quality response to working with those with mental health?
  • What processes or practices will help you open up new ways of seeing and acting in response to affirmative approaches to mental health and wellbeing? 
  • What are you currently working on where there is opportunity to let others take a greater steer in developing and approaching solutions? What level of support might they still need? 
  • What demonstrations of thanks are you able to perform that encourage behaviours aligned to values of the organisation?


Where to next?