Four things Happy Valley tells us about hierarchical leadership

Written by Mark Rowland Tuesday 07 March 2023
Hierarchical management structures have their pros and cons – and Happy Valley’s Sgt Catherine Cawood did a pretty good job of demonstrating both of these
A police car with sirens on driving fast

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t yet watched Happy Valley all the way through, you might want to look away now and read about leadership lessons from Sauron instead…

You only have to travel (by the wonders of television) to Halifax in Yorkshire to observe the pros and cons of hierarchical leadership for yourself. 

As witnessed in the highly acclaimed crime drama series Happy Valley, the Police Service’s classical, hierarchical management structure ensures clarity, clear lines of authority and communication, as well as clear goals and results. But you also make some sacrifices.

What is a hierarchical leadership model?

A hierarchical organisation has a chain of command structured in a pyramid shape, with each level in the pyramid having more authority than those below it. Organisational hierarchy can be tall (lots of levels) or flat (few levels).

Happy Valley’s protagonist, police sergeant Catherine Cawood, is largely a good leader, but not without her blind spots… A typical hierarchical commander, she makes quick, clear, decisive actions, but is out of her comfort zone when it comes to more nuanced emotional issues, sporting a brusque, no-nonsense manner that not all of her team gels with.

What can we learn from her approach to leadership?

Keep reading to discover what Happy Valley teaches us about leadership


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