Reporter 463, 12 March 2001

Where are the leaders?

The majority of British organisations feel that they have problems with leadership, according to a recent survey.

Professor Beverly Alimo-Metcalfe, Dr Nancy Harding, Dr John Lawler and Jackie Ford of the Centre for Leadership and Management at the Nuffield Institute carried out the study for the Careers Research Forum.

The survey looked at 30 CRF members and six company case studies and found that no organisation felt it had highly developed leadership skills at all levels. Most large organisations have not yet fully evolved the concept of nurturing leadership, or put adequate development programmes into practice.

One problem was with the word ‘leader’ itself, which has become confused with that of ‘manager’. While an increasing number of people call themselves leaders, there are arguably fewer who have the necessary skills and attributes.

The idea of a charismatic individual or ‘born leader’ is now out of favour. Organisations are realising that leaders can be ‘made’ and they themselves must ensure that individuals learn the skills and acquire the knowledge that will strengthen their leadership qualities.

However, the selection of potential leaders is often based on nepotism, politics or self-serving agendas, and many senior executives discourage new leaders through their resistance to new initiatives.

Change is urgently needed to survive in today’s competitive environment. The development of leadership skills is beginning to be seen as a priority, not just for top managers, but at all levels of an organisation.

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