Business leaders face the difficult balance of letting go to empower managers and boost staff motivation, while staying in firm control of the company’s aims and strategic goals. Dr Simon Hayward from Cirrus comments in a special employee engagement supplement in The Times.
By Jo Farragher
It’s tougher than ever to be a leader in today’s business climate. Thanks to a string of commercial scandals at institutions such as the Co-operative Bank and RBS, there is intense scrutiny of executive decisions and trust in senior managers has decreased.
At the same time, the context in which leaders operate has become more complex. Companies are more geographically dispersed, managers have more direct lines of reporting and often a much wider remit than before. A study by best practice insight company CEB found that 85 per cent of leaders felt there was an increase in the number of job responsibilities, while 61 per cent reported they had to consult with more people before making a decision.
“There’s exponential technology change, too, which creates more transparency around leadership,” says Simon Hayward, chief executive of Cirrus, a leadership consultancy. “If a customer has a bad experience, we find out about it more quickly, and industries are rapidly changing and innovating – take Uber, for example.”
With this backdrop, the qualities we expect of a great leader have changed, argues Mr Hayward. The authoritarian, command-and-control leadership style that used to dominate corporate life is no longer relevant. “Under that style of leadership, people follow instructions, but they’re dependent. That’s fine if the leader is always right, but it depends on the wisdom of that leader,” he adds.
When it comes to training and developing leaders, embedding this style of leadership requires a more nuanced approach than before. The one-size-fits-all approach of sending groups of managers to a residential course where they learn how things are done may no longer be as effective.
Hotel group Dorchester Collection aims to train future leaders from an early stage in their involvement with the company. Its Dorchester Academy has five different levels, and the focus is on building emotional intelligence and learning through experience rather than decreeing how things are done. “Only one of our programmes looks at how we run the service side of the business, the rest focuses on knowing yourself and knowing the company. If people know who they are, what their strengths are and who they work best with, they can be their most successful,” explains Eugenio Pirri, the hotel group’s vice president for people and organisational development.
Getting leadership right will pay dividends in terms of employees’ happiness at work and willingness to do well.
© Raconteur Media Ltd 2015
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