Weak Leadership in Business restricts economic growth

“Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of employers agree weaknesses in leadership and management in the UK are holding back company growth”. 

This is the sound-bite generated by a recent research report [1] that has just caught my eye .

What is sad about the report is not its key conclusion but that those responding to the survey (employers) did not acknowledge their own role in this. It has been obvious for years that modern business needs ‘leadership at all levels’ to thrive. However, competent management and leadership at lower levels will only flourish if those at the top allow and encourage it to do so.

Now, here’s the paradox: most business leaders that I come across think they already do this. Yet, according to the research, only 40% invest in the management and leadership development to their people. And often that investment is largely about technical skills and management ideas, rather than management development whereby its what you do that counts, not what you know.

Sadly, what we also know is that significantly fewer business leaders invest in themselves – or get meaningful feedback from those that are at the sharp end of their leadership. As such, they are often unintentionally stifling of their people rather than a catalyst for their development. Developing managerial and leadership skills is not just about sending people on courses but giving them responsibilities that will stretch their capability and living with the resultant mistakes. And this also applies to business leaders themselves. Development is about taking yourself out of the daily routines where you can test yourself, your ideas and your skills.

As a business leader, however, there are many disincentives to investing in your own capability. Amongst those that will probably be familiar are:

  • “I can’t afford to be away from the business”
  • “I can’t justify that amount of time/money”
  • “How can I spend £X on myself when we don’t spend that on our staff”
  • “I’ve already done a leadership course”
  • “It feels like self-indulgence”
  • “It’s an admission of weakness i.e. that I’m not a good leader”

To paraphrase my old professor, top tip if you’re suffering from ‘anorexia leaderosa developmenta’, is to ask yourself:

  • “Do I know if I’m doing things right?’
  • “How much does a mistake by me cost my business?”
  • “Do I have a constant stream of new ideas for self and business improvement?”
  • “How do I gauge the impact I’m having on my business?”
  • “Has my leadership given us competitive advantage?”

These are hard questions for anyone leading a business and are the reasons people go on leadership courses, appoint a non-executive director or hire a business coach or mentor.  All of which are good solutions.

And of course, we’d suggest a better option might be to align yourself to a group of peers with no vested interest in your performance and to use them to get answers to these vital questions. But we would say that as we’re passionate about the MD2MD approach.

The right answer of course is whatever works for you in supporting you to lift your head up, see the wood for the trees, and raise your game as a business leader.

The wrong answer as always is to do nothing and let the world (and all its day to day hassles) control you and your destiny.

Post courtesy of Mike Meldrum

[1] ‘The new vocational currency: investing for success’, published jointly by Cranfield School of Management and learndirect.

Written by Bob Bradley, founder of MD2MD

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