Australian bosses get big thumbs-down

Jul 20 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Australia's CEOs have received a big thumbs-down from their own management teams for spending too much time on organisational restructuring at the expense of other leadership tasks.

A report from Melbourne Business School has found that Australia's managers see themselves as more effective than their CEOs, while managers' perceptions of the competency of their bosses have become more negative over the past three years.

Ominously for Australia's bosses, the report suggests that their poor reputation could get even worse. Baby boomers think very highly of their CEOs Ė who tend to be from the same generation. But Existentialists (born between 1955 and 1963) and Generation Xers (born between 1964 and 1979) have a much lower opinion of their leaders.

Businesses may be falling down on one of the fundamentals of leadership

According to Dr Karen Morley, who carried out the 2005 Leadership Index Report, the findings indicated that businesses may be "falling down on one of the fundamentals of leadership - managing the people part of change and transformation".

"Organisations are unlikely to create and deliver full value, in terms of growth, innovation or increased productivity when they aren't getting traction bedding down organisational change," she said.

"Organisational transformation is about people. People create high performance cultures.

Dr Morley said the report revealed that managers felt their organisations and leaders were focussing on organisational restructuring at the expense of other leadership tasks, such as setting and executing strategy and building the leadership capacity of the organisation.

"Continuous reshuffling doesn't add value unless it creates change that is integrated within the culture," Dr Morley said.

"Restructuring just depletes people and makes them increasingly cynical. The task for 21st century leaders is to direct and guide the people part of organisational transformation."

Dr Morley said the results challenged organisations to think critically and differently about leadership, at a time when leadership and leaders globally were under more scrutiny than in the past.

The annual study, now in its fourth year, is the only major study of its type in Australia. It asked almost 700 managers, from frontline to CEO level, to rank the top five priority leadership challenges and captures how they feel about their roles, their leaders and their organisations.

It also highlighted the very different perceptions men and women have on the challenges for managing and leading.

Most starkly, men believe their leaders are good mentors and coaches (they rated this first) whereas women believe that their leaders are not good mentors or coaches (they rated this last).

Men and women agree that creating organisational change and achieving work-life balance are the top two leadership challenges, but they perceive the other top challenges differently.

For men it's about building teams and attracting and retaining talent, whereas for women it is about dealing with office politics and influencing others.

However all those surveyed agreed that attracting and retaining talented staff will be the number one leadership challenge over the next few years.

But as Dr Morley suggests, Australian organisations are in dire need of an shot in the arm when it comes to leadership.

"Leadership is about galvanising people to want to do better, not just more. It doesn't begin and end with the next wave of organisational restructuring."

"If leadership starts at the top, then it is no wonder that there is not much of it in Australian organisations," she added.