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Research from Tarmac partner, Duke of Edinburgh Award shows young people most value emotional intelligence in leaders

Research by The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE), of which Tarmac is a national partner, shows that the UK’s perceptions of the traits that make a good leader are shifting from tradition – however a third of young people still believe men are naturally better leaders.

New research from the charity, which equips young people with the skills needed to become the leaders of tomorrow, demonstrates respect for a new style of leadership – one that values inclusivity and empathy over authority and discipline – is thriving among young people.

The research was conducted by Censuswide using a sample of 1,004 UK 14 to 18 year olds. Asked about the most important characteristic for a leader to have, 58% of people aged 14-18 said listening skills, or kindness and empathy. In comparison, just 10% chose discipline as the most important trait, 6% opted for dominance, and 3% said ruthlessness.

DofE research 2

The leaders that young people most admire further reinforces a shift in the desired values. The research, however, throws up evidence that perceptions around gender and leadership aren’t as progressive. While Oprah Winfrey follows in fifth place, the top four leaders voted as most admired by young people are men. A further 34% of young people also think that there have historically been more male leaders because men are naturally better at leading than women.

In response to the findings, the DofE is calling for the public, and particularly young people, to recognise how skills such as compassion, confidence, and resilience are crucial to their future success.

Graeme Boylen, Tarmac’s HR Director said: “This research is extremely interesting and demonstrates the long term changes in attitude that we see reflected in our business and our people. Embracing and encouraging all aspects of diversity, including diversity of thought and behaviour, is critical to shifting the culture of any business and the acknowledged benefits that brings in terms of both recruiting the best people and driving commercial success.”

DofE research 3 

Peter Westgarth, CEO of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, added:“Whether it’s the ‘Gareth Southgate’ effect or not, it’s encouraging to see that inclusive leadership skills are being recognised by young people. It’s no longer about being the loudest and most dominant person in the room – compassion, self-belief and staying power are much more important. Yet it’s unfortunate that so many young people lack confidence in their ability to become leaders. The DofE is passionate about equipping young people with the confidence and skills the research tells us are needed to become the leaders of tomorrow – coping with pressure and listening to others, while also being kind and empathetic. Talking to young people who have achieved a DofE Award, they tell me that is exactly what they have got from their DofE experience. We want all young people to have that opportunity to thrive”

The DofE Award is the world’s leading youth achievement award that is currently helping 430,000 young people to develop for life and work in the UK. DofE is supported by leading UK employers including Tarmac, who endorse the skills and attributes developed whilst doing a DofE programme such as resilience, commitment, self-motivation and team working.

Further information on the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme research can be found on their website ( or on their social media channels - Twitter (@DofE) and Facebook (DofE).


Research from Tarmac partner, Duke of Edinburgh Award shows young people most value emotional intelligence in leaders

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