Leadership gap at top of British firms

Jul 07 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Employees in Britain are less confident in the leadership abilities of their senior managers than they were at the start of last year, according to a new survey.

The Work Foundation's bi-annual Worker's Index survey has found a quarter of British workers do not believe their senior management has a clear vision of where they are leading the organisation.

The survey, conducted in May, reinforces a trend that was first visible in the October 2005 survey – that around a quarter of workers actively doubt their senior management's leadership abilities and sense of strategic direction, said the foundation.

While more than half (57 per cent) claimed they agreed that their senior management have a clear vision of where their organisation is going – exactly the same as when the survey was last conducted in October 2005 – almost a quarter (24 per cent) disagreed.

When those who disagreed were subtracted from those who agreed, the net "agrees" amounted to just a third (33 per cent).

Public sector workers had less faith in their leaders than private sector workers, the survey found.

A total of 40 per cent of public sector workers had confidence in their senior management in February 2005, but by May this year this had plummeted to 17 per cent.

In the private sector, the balance of opinion had also decreased but at a slower rate, from 55 per cent in February 2005 to 44 per cent in May.

Public service workers also tended to be more critical of their organisation as an employer.

Some 19 per cent of public sector staff felt this way, compared with 11 per cent in the private sector.

In the public sector, 63 per cent of the 1,000 people polled agreed with the statement "my organisation puts the needs of its customers or service users first".

This compared with 79 per cent in the private sector. Nearly one in five public sector respondents disagreed, against just 6 per cent in the private sector.

In addition to senior management, faith in line management was also mixed.

Little more than half of all workers agreed that "my line manager inspires me to do a better job".

Yet, more promisingly, workers who would naturally advocate their organisation as an employer outnumbered those who criticised it – 60 per cent to 14 per cent.

Slightly higher proportions (66 per cent) of workers spoke favourably about the services their organisation provided compared with just 10 per cent who were critical.

Michelle Mahdon, researcher with The Work Foundation, said: "The data points to an on-going leadership gap at the top of British organisations.

"Many senior managers appear to be failing to convince the people they lead that they are doing more than being buffeted by events, while being reluctant to take the necessary steps to steer their organisations in a strategic direction," she added.