Leadership from behind


Despite public concern at failing leadership at the top of the corporate world, UK business is focusing more attention on the leadership skills of its junior managers than its CEOs, according to new figures released on 27 February by The Work Foundation.

The survey - "Developing Leaders" - shows that company directors are the management group least likely to receive leadership development in the next 12 months. They are also the group least likely to have received leadership development over the past two years.

Junior managers are almost twice as likely as CEOs to have received leadership development in the past two years, and are more than twice as likely to receive it in the forthcoming year.

And CEOs are only slightly more likely than junior managers to be expected to exhibit leadership qualities in their work even though the way that they motivate and inspire their organisations is crucial to whether an organisation achieves its corporate objectives.

Of the 221 organisations interviewed for the study, 78 per cent say that they value and promote leadership, 75 per cent say they believe leadership is essential and 90 per cent say they invest in some form of leadership development. However almost one in five (17 per cent) say that leadership is not valued or promoted within their organisation.

Ian Lawson, chief executive of The Work Foundation’s Campaign for Leadership, says: “It is encouraging that most organisations see the need for effective leaders in order to create change and gain buy-in from their people. Much excellent work is being done within organisations, but the survey shows that corporate heads need to give more time and commitment to personal and top team leadership development.

"Leaders at all levels are important but we also need more of our CEOs and company directors to recognise that leadership development, like leadership, is an ongoing process and should begin at the top."

Key Findings

  • The majority of responding organisations (72 per cent) differentiate between leadership and management. 24 per cent say there is no difference. Larger organisations are more likely to differentiate between the two.
  • 78 per cent say that their organisation values and promotes leadership. 17 per cent say it is not valued or promoted. Again larger organisations are more likely to value and promote leadership.
  • 75 per cent say their organisations believe that leadership is essential. 23 per cent say it is simply good to have. 2 per cent consider it not very important.
  • Senior managers are most likely (82 per cent) to be required to have leadership as a core competency, compared to 60 per cent of CEOs and board members who have it as one of their main competencies.
  • 42 per cent of organisations provide leadership training internally, 48 per cent provide it externally.
  • Over the last two years, the largest group receiving leadership training was senior managers (61 per cent), followed by middle managers (55 per cent), team leaders/junior managers (47 per cent), executive team (42 per cent), chief executive/board member (25 per cent). Around 10 per cent of organisations report that no managers have received leadership training in the last two years.
  • Leadership skills development over the next year will focus on middle managers (62 per cent), senior managers (58 per cent), team leaders/junior managers (56 per cent), executive team (40 per cent), CEOs/board members (23 per cent).
  • The effectiveness of leadership is evaluated by informal feedback (57 per cent), staff satisfaction surveys (53 per cent), 360 degree feedback (41 per cent), retention levels (31 per cent), upward appraisal (28 per cent), productivity levels (21 per cent) and focus groups (14 per cent).