Leadership Insights for the Regulation Sector

Our research has found that the most significant people issue for our Regulation and Public Sector clients is the development of their senior leaders, which has been further highlighted through the impact of the pandemic on working practices and expectations.

Gartner research confirms this, with ‘current and future leadership bench strength’ as a top 5 people priority in 2021, with 44% of HR representatives reporting that they are struggling to develop their senior leaders.        

The challenges leaders face in the Regulation sector          

Our conversations with leaders in your sector have shone a spotlight on many challenges. There are, however, four that consistently arise in our interactions with Chief Executives and Board members:       

  • Increased workload and expectations
  • Focus on prevention rather than enforcement
  • Influencing and responding to changing legislation / policy
  • Diversity and Inclusion.        

For each challenge we reference the critical leadership behaviours and then use benchmarking data from GatenbySanderson leadership profiling to provide insights into the capacity of leaders in your sector to deliver on these.        

Defining behavioural excellence       

In this article we will reference the GatenbySanderson leadership model, Altitude, this describes behavioural excellence for leaders working across the Public and Not for Profit Sectors. The model includes 12 behaviours falling into three clusters; Focus on Self, Focus on People and Focus on Outcomes.       

We have mapped assessment data on over 3,500 leaders to these behaviours allowing us to benchmark and compare leader capability in different sectors to the broader Public Sector (we have data for over 300 leaders from the Regulation sector). We calculate this variance to generate a Net Leadership Capability score that can then be reported as a ‘strength’ or a ‘risk’.   

While all 12 of these behaviours are key to leadership success, some of these are of particular relevance to the immediate challenges identified for regulatory bodies, and insight for these is referenced below.      

The leadership behaviours that matter in your context     

Increased workload and expectations:  The Covid-19 crisis has caused further, significant pressures across Regulatory bodies.   In addition to a longer-term trend across the whole sector in needing to deliver more with less due to increasing financial pressures, those in the health and social care regulation in particular have faced immediate demands for additional frontline activity to support the response to the pandemic.  The financial impact of the pandemic is likely to lead to further requirements to deliver with limited resources in future.         

‘Outcomes’ behaviours are key to delivering on this challenge with ‘Social Heart, Commercial Head’ key in delivering an effective and cost-efficient service under increasing operational pressures. This behaviour will be required to enable Regulatory leaders to balance the finances with the need to deliver a high quality regulatory service that protects the public. The Net Leadership Capability score shows that leaders in the Regulation sector, when compared to leaders in the broader Public Sector, have lower potential to deliver in terms of ‘Social Heart, Commercial Head’.  This suggests a potential risk and area for developmental focus for leaders in the sector to help them ensure that they protect the public within the constraints of challenging budgets.             

Focus on prevention rather than enforcement: Taking a more proactive approach to regulation, working with those who are regulated to prevent the need for regulatory action has become an increasingly prevalent approach.              

Behaviours of most relevance here are ‘Promote Collaboration’ and ‘Tackle Tomorrow’.  The Net Leadership Capability insight suggests that leaders in the Regulation sector, when compared to the broader Public Sector, have a slightly higher potential to deliver on working closely with others to enhance outcomes; this strength should be leveraged with immediate effect to ensure that successful working relationships are built with regulated individuals/organisations to enable regulators to proactively reduce the need for regulatory action in the future.  ‘Tackle Tomorrow’ however appears to be a potential risk area, with the Net Leadership Capability indicating a slightly lower capability around delivering transformation and change as part of this activity.                    

Influencing and responding to changing legislation and policy:  The pandemic has highlighted how rapidly circumstances and policy can change; regulators have always been required to adapt to changes introduced by the government, but the pandemic further emphasised how a single unexpected event can lead to wide-reaching changes in the way regulators need to operate.  Furthermore, outside these unexpected changes, Regulators are increasingly seeking to proactively influence and be actively involved in legislative changes in line with their strategic aims and needs.                         

Behaviours of most relevance to responding to change are ‘Be Curious & Agile’ and ‘Courage and Tenacity’. The Net Leadership Capability score shows that leaders in the Regulation sector, when compared to the broader Public Sector, have more potential to be adaptable and responsive in the face of change, but less potential when it comes to demonstrating resilience and persevering in the face of the unexpected challenge. This should be noted as a risk for leaders in the sector as they work through maintaining their own resilience through a difficult period and challenging times ahead; support around building resilience will be key in enabling individuals to work effectively in an ever-changing environment, supporting their well-being and enabling them to set a positive example for their teams.                          

In terms of taking a proactive stance in influencing change, ‘Influence and Impact’ is an essential behaviour to ensure that Regulators are able to identify and influence potential changes to policy; the Net Leadership Capability in this area indicates that  leaders within Regulators show less potential compared to the broader Public Sector, with the difference nearing statistical significance.  This represents a key area of focus if Regulators are to be successful in taking a more proactive approach to their interactions with policy makers.                  

Diversity and Inclusion: Our conversations with Regulators frequently reference the need for their Boards and leadership teams to be more representative of both the communities they regulate and those that regulated individuals serve.                      

The Behaviour of focus here is ‘Futureproof Talent’; here the Net Leadership Capability score shows that leaders in the Regulation sector have similar potential to their peers across the broader Public Sector to deliver on this behaviour. Whilst this suggests there is not a risk as such for leaders in the sector, there is likely to be scope to enhance and develop awareness and behaviours in this area.   We also recommend caution with the need to consider diversity in its broadest sense, including leveraging the lived experience of individuals and that beneficiaries of services have a voice when shaping strategy and determining priorities.

Working in partnership with you     

Our Leadership & Talent Consultancy is a team of talent, leadership and organisational development specialists dedicated to helping our clients tackle the leadership challenges that matter to them and ultimately deliver on our mission to ‘find and develop leaders to shape a better society’.      

Our solutions include succession management, executive coaching, top team development, leadership development programmes, organisational development and board evaluation.  Some of our recent work in the Regulation sector includes:       

– Top Team Development and Coaching for a regulatory body, combining individual sessions with anonymised aggregate reporting to support the team in assessing both their individual and team strengths and development areas, to support them in driving high performance.     

– High Potential Development Programme for a major regulator, supporting the development of those with the potential to reach the highest executive grades, including individual coaching conversations to explore the outputs of online tools.        

– Creating and embedding a new Success Profiles Framework that reflects the core behaviours required for success across all grades in a high profile regulator; followed by activity to embed this in all recruitment, performance management and development activities across all grades.        

– Bespoke Leadership 360 Feedback System developed for a regulator, assessing individuals against the organisation’s own leadership framework.  Initially completed by the most senior level executives and subsequently cascaded through to all leaders across the organisation.  We provided external developmental coaching sessions to explore the feedback and support leaders to get the most out of the development opportunity, and also trained internal coaches to deliver these as the 360 was rolled out to a wider pool of people.               

Resilience workshops: we have run over 40 resilience sessions in the past 12 months for our clients across the Public and Not-for-Profit sectors, including senior leader sessions.

We have extensive experience supporting organisations and individuals understand their leadership capability and developing their top teams to be future ready. If you’d like to discuss how we can support your organisation with your leadership challenges, please contact Marie Blakesley at 

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