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Lack of leadership skills 'harming businesses'
HR News |
Whatever sector or industry a business is operating in, strong leadership is one of the pre-requisites for success. Employees not only need guidance and reassurance, helping them to meet expectations on a daily business, but they need to have confidence in the decision makers at the top of the company. If executives and line managers lack the required leadership skills, getting ground-level employees to buy into the vision for the company becomes an altogether more difficult task.
With this in mind, the findings of a recent Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) survey may concern some business leaders. A study of 750 HR managers discovered that 93 per cent believe their organisations are being held back by a lack of managerial skills. And given the links between management and leadership best practice and business performance, this means the UK could be in danger of falling behind its global competitors.
Lack of expertise
HR Directors were particularly concerned about a lack of expertise at line manager level, meaning some employee teams may not be getting the guidance and day-to-day support they need to maximise productivity levels. Some 47 per cent of those surveyed identified a lack of internal staff capability as 'the single biggest barrier' to ensuring an effective supply of leaders and managers through their organisation.
Another issue flagged up by the research is a lack of succession planning within UK businesses. Some 43 per cent have no talent plan in place at all, meaning they could struggle to replace key members of staff who leave the organisation. As a consequence, businesses may be failing to capitalise on internal talent, as suggested by an external hiring rate of 45 per cent for management roles. At senior level, just 50 per cent of companies recruit from their internal talent pool. ILM believes this is because critical leadership skills such as strategy and financial acumen are undervalued and underdeveloped at lower management levels.
Identifying the right candidates
In fewer than a fifth of cases (18 per cent), HR managers expected candidates to have received management training prior to being appointed to such a position. This suggests a lack of training in this area is endemic and businesses are resigned to the fact that they will often by employing people without the desired experience in team leadership.
Almost half (49 per cent) of respondents said it was hard to find first line managers who were entrepreneurial and 39 per cent admitted it was difficult to find ‘emotionally intelligent’ managers at this level. "UK companies risk ending up with teams led by ‘expert novices’, i.e. managers with excellent technical capability but lacking management capability or leadership potential," ILM stated. "Moreover, they are ill-prepared for the demands of more senior roles as technical and functional skills recede in importance."
Building for the future
Charles Elvin, chief executive of ILM, said the "clear link between management and leadership capability and productivity" means that organisations should be fully focused on developing managers not just for their current role, but for the future goal of their organisation. "The UK needs to address the current shortage of management and leadership skills revealed in this survey in order to compete on the international stage," he stated.
“Now more than ever, businesses should be investing in leadership and management development at all levels to ensure strong business performance and effectiveness," Mr Elvin added. "They need to consider the personal qualities of managers as well as their technical skills, helping them become more innovative, inspirational and emotionally intelligent in order to prepare them for the demands of 21st century leadership."
He claimed that developing leadership capability at all levels enables organisations to promote from within instead of relying on external recruitment. This can help to reduce recruitment costs, minimise risk and also ensue an easier transition." Businesses with strong internal talent plans can also reap the benefits of improved company culture and employee loyalty," he added.
Next steps for employers
So what can businesses do to improve the supply of leaders? ILM suggests creating a talent plan, which enables the introduction of essential skills development prior to managerial appointments being made. Employers should focus primarily on communication, people management, organisation and planning, the institute stated.
Employers should also consider personal qualities, seeking inspirational, emotionally intelligent, creative and innovative individuals for leadership roles. "Technical skills matter, but should not be over-valued," ILM noted. "These skills are important, but are not an indicator of management capability or leadership potential."
Posted by Jon Aspinell
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