Leadership is a skill in short supply. This has a number of implications:
• it leads to poor succession planning, a particular problem for UK industry, and may be wiping £2bn a year from the FTSE 350 according to Investors in People;
• research in the late 90s and early 2000s by a number of companies suggested that the UK workforce was extremely disengaged (in fact at the bottom of the EU table) due to perceptions of bad leadership. 41% of workers have no confidence in their senior managers;
• 85% of large companies run leadership development programmes (including a huge growth in mentoring, coaching and buddying schemes) and cite a lack of good leadership in the UK, with the primary lack being people management ability according to CIPD)
In fact, according to the BPS, the whole area of developing leaders and management was already worth about $ 1 billion in 2005.
There are a number of reasons for all this interest in leadership: striking examples of leadership gone wrong (from Enron to Northern Rock); a sense that some leadership skills can be learnt; increased understanding in the UK that leadership is a job with special skills, not just a reward for good functional performance. General skills shortages haven’t helped. Graduate recruiters and organisations like the Association of MBAs have frequently highlighted that, whatever else potential leaders know, there’s a real deficit in soft people skills That’s exactly why companies are having to provide them.
While there’s no absolute agreement about what constitutes good leadership, there is a growing consensus that while being intelligent enough and having one area of knowledge (such as marketing or accounts) is necessary, it’s other skills which are crucial. Communication is one of these – and communicating in a very specific way, which is not technical and numbers-heavy but which combines story-telling, facts and personal statements. Understanding people is another; not least so you can put a good team together. Finally, knowing yourself – how you act, how you strike other people and what you believe is a must.
It’s no wonder that assessments are increasingly used to plan development programmes for leaders and people on a fast track talent programme heading towards leadership positions. Most mentoring/coaching exercises are based on test results then move on to linked development programmes – often focused on the people skills of management.
The McQuaig Job Survey® is an ideal tool for thinking through development needs in the first 90 days post recruitment and linked to The Toolkits, provides a one-stop-shop for companies who want to build best practice into their leadership programmes.
This article has talked a lot about leadership but the same issues hold sway in functional management and one of the other big business priorities: recruiting, identifying and retaining talent.
How do you identify your future Leaders?