Tom Peterkin: Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership style

Nicola Sturgeon's leadership appears to be characterised by a calm and clinical efficiency. Picture: Jane Barlow
Nicola Sturgeon's leadership appears to be characterised by a calm and clinical efficiency. Picture: Jane Barlow
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MORE often than not a change of leadership tends to bring a change in leadership style.

According to those near the heart of Scottish Government, the replacement of Alex Salmond by Nicola Sturgeon is no exception to that rule.

After almost eight years of Salmond reigning supreme, cabinet secretaries and ministers are getting used to a new kind of leadership.

Where Salmond offered a famously robust and almost mercurial style, Sturgeon’s leadership appears to be characterised by a calm and clinical efficiency.

Cabinet meetings that used to run on and on are now over and done with as Sturgeon makes quick and well-informed decisions.

Sturgeon’s decisiveness is said to be impressive as she runs through the Cabinet papers.

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It is an approach which contrasts with the more discursive sessions chaired by Salmond, who enjoyed floating ideas around the table and exploring different ways of doing things.

Perhaps inevitably, these discussions were dominated by Salmond’s forceful personality. Red herrings made the odd appearance, but Salmond’s willingness to pick the brains of his ministers by challenging them to come up with solutions encouraged lateral thinking when it came to dealing with problems.

Sturgeon relies more on her own intellect and her instinctive political nous to get through the agenda.

The two politicians also differ in the way they behave outside office hours. Salmond was notorious for living and breathing the job. Apart from the odd game of golf, moments of genuine relaxation were few and far between. At the weekend, duty advisers were braced for regular and forceful phone calls querying press coverage based on Salmond’s own forensic reading of the newspapers.

According to his biographer, Salmond was even known to ring his staff from the bath. Accounts of his leadership paint a picture of a restless and inquiring figure, keen to take the initiative and prepared to take risks. This willingness to think “on the hoof” made for exciting times but also made him prone to the odd gaffe. Demands on staff were high, something that did not suit everyone. But his fiery enthusiasm inspired great loyalty from many of those he worked with.

Sturgeon also inspires great loyalty – but for different reasons. Her staff admire her ability and her willingness to take responsibility. Away from the office she is capable of using whatever time off she can grab to relax. It means she is disinclined to bark down the phone at her advisers demanding to know why there is an unfavourable headline on page 32 of her local paper.