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The Open University studies my leadership style!

I was extremely honoured to be shadowed by Dr Linda Wilks from the OU for nine months in 2013. This was due to a festival I was staging, which was volunteer run and had a high profile in the regional press - another of my PR projects!

As a result, Linda identified 'a new theoretical model, termed ‘layered leadership’, (see Figure 1 below). This model extends and transcends the existing leadership theories in the table below it by highlighting the relationships between the various features of leadership discovered in the data.'

'The three key elements of the layered leadership model can be matched to the clusters of leadership features identified by this study.

The inner core of the model gathers together the features of ‘delivery’, which emphasise the harder skills of being task focused, well organised, goal oriented and persistent, as well as being able to network in a targeted manner.

To mask and soften these harder features within a volunteering environment, the features of ‘caring’ and ‘sharing’ appear in the middle layer: appealing to higher order social values, empowering followers for growth, communicating gratitude, building and giving trust, enabling teamwork, displaying excellent communication skills and demonstrating concern for the volunteers.


All of which I feel are becoming increasingly essential in commercial environment. The exterior layer highlights the features of the ‘inspiring’ cluster: enthusiasm, self-confidence, risk taking, being proactive and networking in a targeted manner, which are closest to the surface due to the leader’s need to attract followers before revealing to them the inner layers, which I would argue is what a leader needs to do with every member of their team for it to be operating at maximum capacity'

For more information about these elements please read about the essential 'soft skills' I encourage leaders to develop



The leadership of volunteers within the context of a grassroots event demands a complex leadership style, as displayed within the new model offered here. This case study provides an example of how volunteer leadership can operate successfully within the context of a local festival, adding to the sparse literature already available.

All of the interviewed volunteers reported that they enjoyed the festival volunteering experience and stated that they would be happy to volunteer again at the same festival the following year, if it were repeated, thus suggesting that lessons can be learned from the leadership approach they encountered.

If you are interested in reading the full paper, please click here
If you are interested in downloading a version please click here
Layered Leadership style - Helen Thomson
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Layered Leadership involves three key elements 

Inspiring :  enthusiastic, self confident, proactive, decision making, calculated risk taker, appreciative

Caring & Sharing : empowering, enabling, engenders trust, excellent communication skills, cares about welfare, espouses higher social order values, Inclusive

Delivering : focused, well organised, efficient, goal oriented, persistent, good networker

If these echo the values and beliefs you have about the role of leaders and managers in your business and would like to talk about this model please get in touch with me here

If you would like to talk about how we can develop these competencies in your organisation, please email me at now and start the conversation!

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