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Cath Everett

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UK managers lack leadership skills


UK managers are among the worst in the world in terms of leadership effectiveness, with the situation being particularly marked in government and financial services, according to a study.

The survey undertaken among 29,000 employees in 21 countries by HR software provider Kenexa’s Research Institute revealed that the UK ranked 17th for managerial effectiveness, scoring only 47%, a huge 25% behind India, which topped the poll at 72%, and well below the average score of 55%.
Jack Wiley, executive director of the Research Institute, said: “For their own effectiveness – and for the sake of their organisations and the economy – UK leaders should look in the mirror, evaluate their own practices and commit to personal improvement. At the same time, UK organisations should review the approaches they use to recruit and develop their leaders.”
The country’s most effective bosses tended to be found in the manufacturing, healthcare and retail sectors, while the least effective were likely to work in government and financial services.
But the report entitled ‘Exploring Leadership and Managerial Effectiveness’ also indicated that, according to employees, the most effective managers were fair, communicative and involved staff. They also acted as problem-solvers, recognised a job well done, supported personnel development and were employee-oriented.
This meant that the key priorities for leadership development were in building up leadership trust and the ability to engage in open, honest two-way communication, the study said.
But it also showed that effective management had a positive and significant impact on staff engagement. If employees rated their leaders as effective, engagement levels were at about 91%, while if they viewed their bosses as either neutral or ineffective, the score was more like 17%, as much as five times lower.
The findings were also backed up by a similar study undertaken by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Its ‘Economic Outlook’ research indicated that morale had fallen over the last six months among 93% of workers. Some 62% were pessimistic about the future, while 53% were worried about the impact of skills shortages on managers’ ability to deliver.
A further 47% said they had left a job due to a bad manager, with 21% complaining that they were authoritarian, 16% bureaucratic and 13% secretive.
But the data also revealed that 68% of bosses had fallen into their role ‘by accident’, with 63% having received no management training. A further three out of 10 also admitted that they were scared of looking incompetent if they asked for help.
As a result, the CMI has developed a number of qualifications ranging from Level 3, the equivalent of ‘A’ level, to Level 7, the equivalent of a post-graduate degree, focusing on project management, public service leadership and neighbourhood management.
The courses were developed in association with the University of West Scotland and Gloucestershire Constabulary and are expected to take up to 12 months to complete, the equivalent of up to 240 guided learning hours.

2 Responses

  1. Leadership training is surely the key

    In the current (improving) economic climate, companies need to keep the staff they have, and get even greater performance from them. It is absolutely essential that time and money is invested in leadership development. When a person takes on a leadership position, they do not suddenly become outstanding leaders. They do not necessarily know what they do well or not so, and that uncertainty in itself can spell disaster for the business as staff chose to leave, probably followed by clients.

  2. UK managers lack leadership skills

    I’m not surprised that government and financial service organizations are particularly poor at leading their people as they don’t typically concentrate on building internal cultures to support their key focus, their raison d’être. The problem I see with ‘leadership’ in the UK specifically is the use of the word leadership in the first place. We’ve bastardised the word in a similar way we have with innovation. It seams today that everyone is a leader and everyone’s organization is innovative. In the same way that ‘innovative/innovation’ has become the marketing departments word of choice without real substance or justification for use. The term ‘leader or leadership’ is now the new title for senior management teams. It’s my firm belief that organizations should dispense with the title leader/leadership when referring to their senior people until the title is bestowed upon an individual by the rest of the organization. A true leader is someone who others want to follow. Who people believe in, respect and admire. Someone who they believe will make the future seem bright, achievable and worth the journey. True leaders are less common than we would like but artificially trying to create them isn’t the answer. Organizations should instead be focusing on being as ‘people centric’ as they are ‘customer centric’ They should use verifiable observations of the most successful ‘leaders’ in the world to developing the traits that these natural leaders have in abundance. Amongst other things they see their role as a trustee of people before they even consider the customer or the shareholder. They involve them, appreciate them and see things from their perspective in order to make connections that allow them to develop, shine and be more effective. The end result will be an absolutely awesome manager/director of people even if they’re never bestowed with the leadership badge but the organization as a whole will be a positive, forward thinking, engaged environment where exceptional things happen.


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