Knowing Self, Knowing Others: A critical exploration of selfawareness and its relevance to leader effectiveness across all levels of the Welsh public service

  • Nia Thomas

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The Welsh public service strives to achieve better for its citizens. To do so, it needs to develop leaders that are adept at building workplace relationship that achieve positive outcomes. The researcher’s experiences of working within the Welsh public service establishes an interest in workplace behaviours and leadership functions vested in individuals at all levels. The literature identifies gaps in exploration of public administration and in defining contemporary leadership in practice. Consequently, the aim of this thesis is to critically explore self-awareness and its relevance to leader effectiveness across all levels of the Welsh public service.

    This thesis establishes a three-layer definition of self-awareness made up of internal, internal-social and external-social self-awareness. It defines leader effectiveness as awareness of, awareness of impact of, and ability to regulate first order technical knowledge and capabilities and second order emotions and behaviours. Combined, these definitions generate the first of three contributions to knowledge. Resonant leadership, with its foundations firmly embedded in emotional intelligence emerges as the most relevant leadership model for exploration. The second contribution to knowledge is the five functions job levels framework, establishing operational, business, management, senior management and strategic as the job levels common to all Welsh public service organisations.

    Within a pragmatic philosophy and social constructionist approach, a mixed methods strategy is implemented through a questionnaire followed by interviews. An unique self-awareness questionnaire is developed and forms the third contribution to knowledge, forming an element of the larger questionnaire used.

    It is found that there is a relationship between self-awareness and leader effectiveness. Effective resonant leaders can be identified at all five levels of the Welsh public service organisations. Effective resonant leaders at the strategic level have less self-awareness than those at any other level. Effective resonant leaders at the operational, business, management and senior management levels have greater self-awareness than those who are ineffective. Line managers identified as effective resonant leaders at the business, management and senior management job levels have greater self-awareness than those who are identified as ineffective.

    The qualitative data analysis yielded a number of themes that require consideration by the Welsh public service, such as: behaviour, organisational standards, the experiences of individuals, strategic level disconnect, and reflection. Others include people management, the potential of individuals, community connections, and impact of decisions. Such topics for discussion as inclusive decision making, cooperation between peers, and recruitment processes emerge from comparison of findings with extant literature.

    This thesis makes five recommendations for improvement: strategic review of organisational culture to raise the profile of second order emotions and behaviours; re-focus of organisational priorities in people management, communication and recruitment-marketing strategies, policies and procedures to align with organisational culture; review of recruitment, retention, capability management, training and organisational development policies and procedures to align with organisational culture and priorities; assessment of individual self-awareness through recruitment and promotion processes; and operationalisation of organisational standards.
    Date of Award29 Apr 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGareth White (Supervisor) & Aaron Kofi Badu Yankholmes (Supervisor)

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