A longitudinal evaluation of political astuteness leadership development training: A study of police managers in a United Kingdom police force

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Worcester

Principal Researcher

Berni Gaughan

Level of Research


Project Start Date

January 2016

Research Context

This study took place in a UK police force.  The College of Policing leadership review (2015) highlighted that in a police context the leadership style can sometimes be described as a hierarchical command and control leadership behaviour. This style works well when managing operational critical incidents, but less well when working in a partnership context. Operating in a partnership situation generally includes a range of stakeholders from different backgrounds, who all have different agendas, priorities and values that need to be harnessed to achieve positive outcomes. Subsequently a helpful skill police leaders can use when working in a partnership context is political astuteness, defined by Hartley and Fletcher (2008) as a constructive skill used by leaders when working with diverse viewpoints and different agendas to achieve organisational and social goals. For this reason a legislative training day was developed. The content of the training day included three different real life case studies, each case study had a series of questions for students to reflect on and answer. The questions related to the relevant case study and were framed around the political astuteness framework, enabling students to practice their political astuteness skills learned in the classroom environment. This PhD research study measured the long term impact of the training.

Whilst research has been carried out to examine political astuteness across the public sector, no study has been conducted in policing alone. This thesis therefore aimed to address this gap in knowledge by conducting a longitudinal study to determine whether training increases political astuteness behaviour and then whether political astuteness behaviour predicts change- orientated behaviours'.

Research question
To determine over an eighteen month period, if training increases political astuteness behaviour and then whether political astuteness behaviour predicts change behaviour.

Aims and objectives
There are two main aims:
Aim 1: Develop evidenced based political astuteness vignettes to be delivered to police leaders in a training environment
Aim 2: Conduct a longitudinal study, to evaluate the research model applied in this study to establish if change happens over time

Specifically the research will:
Objective 1: Design and deliver a political astuteness leadership development training intervention for police leaders
Objective 2: Apply a mixed methods research methodology, to evaluate if political astuteness leadership development training increases political astuteness behaviours
Objective 3: Track students over a longitudinal period to understand if training increases political astuteness behaviour as a result of the training
Objective 4: Measure over time if leader’s political astuteness behaviour predicts change- orientated behaviours as measure
Objective 5: Integrate quantitative and qualitative data
Objective 6: Report on researcher’s reflective practice throughout the study

Research Methodology

A mixed methods research methodology was adopted. The first phase of the research was a large scale quantitative study and the second phase of the research was the qualitative study.

For the quantitative study workforce strategy group (Staffing Information, 2018) within a UK police force supplied a list of all 378 front line officers, Sergeants and Inspectors; this purposive sample was used to recruit participants and all participants were self-selected. Whilst taking part in the training was mandatory, candidates were invited to take part in the research study. With five predictors, the required sample size for power = .95 is 138 (based on a medium effect size (Cohen, 1992) f2 = .15, α = .05, one predictor and power (1 – β) = .95. However the larger sample frame was selected to allow for attrition.

The same quantitative measure collected data at three different time points, baseline data (T1) collected before participants attend the training. Follow up data (T2) was collected 12 weeks after participants had attended the training and then a final measure (T3) was collected at the end of the training delivery. The quantitative data was then analysed.

For the large scale quantitative study a t-test will be conducted on matched base line measure (T1), follow up 12 week post training measure (T2) and final end of programme training delivery (T3) to establish any significant changes in the responses to questions about levels of confidence before and after attending the training. Additionally to measure over time if police leader’s political astuteness behaviour predicts change-orientated behaviours, a multiple linear regression will be applied. The predicator variables from the political astuteness measure scale and sub-scale will be used along with the outcome variable change-orientated behaviour at scale-level and sub-scale level. A time series regression analysis will be applied to compare political astuteness at scales and sub scale level predicting change orientated behaviour at scale and sub scale level over the three time points.

The results from the large scale qualitative study will be used in a qualitative study. The purposive sample frame will select participants who took part in the quantitative study, in order to examine the quantitative results from a multiple range of different perspectives, such as different ranks, role and working context. The semi-structured interview will apply IPA data analysis method to understand participant (n=10) personal opinions about the quantitative results and the workplace challenges encountered when transferring the learning into the workplace. The results from both studies were then synthesised to answer the research question.

Interim reports and publications

A rapid evidenced-based assessment is under development to understand how people develop political astuteness skills and then where people apply political astuteness skills.

The pilot results were presented at Worcester University Seeds of knowledge conference and the poster was selected for the 2019 Division of Occupational Psychologies national conference.

Date due for completion

November 2022
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