Critical Leadership

Leadership abilities are needed at all levels of an organisation and not just at the very top.  After many years of practice and research we understand that Critical Leadership lies at the heart of all good leadership development. It is this reflective  process which allows individuals to become more self-aware and enhances the ability to adapt and change.

Our approach is active in every sense – active learning, engaging all the senses, creating environments that help to build self awareness and critical thinking.  This space may be physical or mental or, indeed, both, however, it allows room for creative and mindful thought and challenges and helps to build mental resilience.  The learning is always in the service of action so our success is measured through our ability to make a difference and measure change in work-place practice.

Our academic research, within both the public and private sectors, tells us that creating this environment (even for short periods of time) can change practice and behaviour that will be sustainable. All our professional programmes are built on three key concepts that underpin our philosophy and help to create more critical leaders.


This framework recognised that, as a leader, it is important to be able to operate within all aspects of the knowing – being – doing triangle and that each have a dependency on the other. 

Knowing – this is the body of knowledge you need to draw from to inform your actions and behaviours. The ‘knowing’ also considers your ability to transfer knowledge to new situations – to make links and judgements in order to understand new situations.

Being – this  encompasses your behaviour in relation to values and beliefs. As a leader do you  behave with integrity, do those who work with you trust you? Being also encompasses the ability to be self aware – understand how you impact on others – to reflect on your behaviour.

Doing – as a leader do you have the skills and technical ability to carry out your role to a high and consistent standard – to do the job well. To meet objectives and standards.

Our own research suggest that as leadership practitioners we are very good at, and indeed value the Doing segment of the triangle, we give some time and thought to the Knowing part of the framework however we are not consciously aware of the part  Being plays in our leadership role. Each of these aspects are inter-dependent – what we know shapes who we are and our behaviour should be congruent with our beliefs and values. Thus the knowing and being elements feed in to the doing. On going reflection and self awareness are crucial to becoming a leder who can fully draw on all three aspects of this framework

Putting these three conditions into action ensures that you create the reflective environment needed for learning to take place. Although these concepts are used to construct our development programmes they are equally as relevant for informal and formal workplace learning.

Space – creating an environment that takes people out of their comfort zone and encourages different thinking – this could encompass holding meetings in a different format or challenging patterns of thinking. It is less about the physical environment but more about the mental stimulation that makes leaders challenge their own thinking.

Pace – we often reward and give credit to busy people – we often consider busy people to be productive. We recognise that to release full potential there is a need to create work and learning that happens at different paces – sometimes busy, working to speed and deadlines however, also building time to stop or be slow and think and reflect (see concept 1 – Being more reflective) for more on this.

Place – we are creatures of habit, we have routines that get us through the day and give us structure to our day – this is not always a bad thing, however, if we want people to think and behave differently – be creative and innovative – we need to look at different places to be in. This may be as simple as re-organsising the working or meeting room or going outside to hold one to one reviews.

Often as leaders we may rely on one or other of these states but rarely a combination of all – this powerful combination of considering all states promotes a more rounded response to challenges and promotes reflective practice in action.

Thinking – Feeling – Willing encourages leaders to consider their practice and challenges on 3 levels.

Thinking – considering and using logic, theories and rationality to inform our behaviour.

Feeling – what is our emotional response to situations, both in the heart and the gut, what are our instinctive responses – what is our human reaction?

Willing – how ready are we to take action and, based on our thinking and feeling, do something. Alternatively how often do we take action without considering our rational and emotional self!

By encouraging leaders to consider their judgement based on all 3 states (and not the over reliance of one state) ensures the development of well rounded critical leaders who take informed actions.

PDC use these three concepts to craft tailor made solutions to organisational and behavioural change. We consider the role of the leadership in the change process and how to make managers think like leaders. Testimonials from our long established customers in both the public and private sectors prove that our interventions help people and businesses change and thrive in tough times.

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