Review by Claire Glover

Day 6 teacher, Ashcroft school, Cheadle

15 Sep 2019, 5:00


The Leadership Factor: Seven Characteristics of Exceptional Leaders

By Drew Povey, with Laura McInerney


John Catt Educational

Drew Povey’s second book is vastly different to his first. Educating Drew: The Real Story of Harrop Fold School detailed his journey as a headteacher in a “tough” inner-city school and the struggles he faced.

In The Leadership Factor he focuses on what makes a good leader. It is more practical and research-based, and I thought that the charm of his first foray might be lost. I need not have worried.

In his introductory chapter, he looks back to the teachers that had the most effect on him – and those that didn’t. In a sense, he argues, our familiarity with leadership begins in our formative school years. For Povey it has been a conscious and developing study, and 35 years of reflection and experience have led him to deduce a formula for effective leadership, or “the leadership factor”.

This isn’t a typical leadership book. It does set out seven characteristics of effective leadership, which is formulaic for sure, but that’s the point.

One thing it isn’t is prosaic. As well as meaningful anecdotes and plenty of research, it contains a questionnaire audit about the key leadership traits it sets out, and a link to a full psychometric audit that can be done online. The questionnaire is straightforward and comprises seven tables, with clear and concise instructions. This is more than a book to stimulate reflection; it is a practical tool for self-evaluation and improvement.

As such, the book can be used in a variety of ways. It can be read from start to finish, of course, or as the author himself suggests, you can complete the audit and focus on the sections that resonate with you. Povey offers a five-step way to use it for impact. As one becomes familiar with it, though, I imagine it would be very easy to simply dip into relevant sections for guidance and enlightenment. I know it will be a useful book to refer back to at different stages of my career, or when faced with particular challenges, and I know I will return to it many times.

An important section explores the difference between leadership and management. If you are looking for ways to tell people what to do or guidance on how to develop processes, then this isn’t the book for you. It’s about people, vision and how to sell it – the heart and soul of leadership, as Povey says.

If you are in any doubt that leadership matters, the chapter How do you lead an ostrich egg? is bound to persuade you that it does. Leadership without vision, without respect for the people who will implement it, and without a plan to bring these together is tantamount to burying your head in the sand. To take your eyes off any of these aspects is to create wilful blind spots with potentially damaging consequences.

The book is split into three sections: leading yourself, leading others, and leading others to lead themselves. Each section looks at different factors such as charisma and confidence that make up the author’s formula. But this isn’t a book that rests on anecdotes. To be sure, each section contains concrete examples, but there is also a wealth of research to back up the author’s thoughts, as well as activities and practical tips.

More than that, the book contains an action plan to support readers to pursue the ideas it inspires in them through to impactful, concrete change.

The Leadership Factor is easy to read. Coupling honesty and real-life examples with substantive research means it is never dry, but also never vacuous. Povey has an obvious talent for connecting with his audience that really shines through.

Human relationships are at the core of his formula, and the book reflects that. It is written with warmth, heart and a real sense of purpose.

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