Bosses fail to show the qualities employees require from their leaders
HR Editorial, August 23, 2011
Good communication, the ability to motivate, and integrity are seen by UK workers as the most important attributes to lead a successful business – but the majority of bosses don't show these qualities - according to a new study by Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann, the executive search and leadership consultancy.
The research looks into what the nation's workforce thinks of business leaders and what they think are the qualities required to manage a successful company.
Being a good communicator is the quality most commonly associated with being an effective business leader according to the findings, but only one in five workers (21%) believes the boss of their business has this skill. The ability to motivate staff is seen as the second most important characteristic, but just 13% of employees think their boss is a good motivator.
Having a good moral compass is seen as a crucial 'boss factor', but just 14% of workers think their boss has integrity, a quality that is much more important to female workers, with 13% of them seeing it as the most important attribute compared to just 7% of men.
Less than one in 10 employees (9%) sees their organisation's leader as inspirational, and just 16% think they have long-term vision. Only 17% of UK workers think their boss is decisive, and fewer still (12%) think their boss has charisma or personality.
But while workers don't rate their own bosses, they don't necessarily think celebrity bosses would do a better job either, with only one in three workers (37%) saying they think The Apprentice's Lord Sugar would run their organisation better than their current boss. They do think business leaders are generally given a hard time in the media though, with 29% saying the way they are portrayed in the media diminishes their reputation, compared to just 10% who think it enhances it.
UK workers think bosses that are bad leaders are those that are arrogant, have poor communication skills, and are uncaring. Employees are also critical of the type of boss who is obsessed with targets, places more interest in investors than employees, is indecisive or risk-averse, or focuses on cost control rather than growth.
Tony Vardy, MD, Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann, said: "As a business that has been assessing and placing company bosses for over 40 years, we have a wealth of knowledge of what leaders need to be successful. However, our research shows that many employees think their boss doesn't have the necessary leadership attributes.
"Our experience tells us that in reality most business leaders do have these qualities, certainly in large companies, but some demonstrate these more effectively to shareholders or the media than to their employees. The best company leaders succeed in proving their leadership characteristics to all stakeholders: shareholders, customers, the media, colleagues and employees alike.
"Employees are often perceptive and accurate about aspects of what it takes to be a great boss. For example, in our recent research they identified being a good communicator as the most important factor, which we agree is an absolutely essential leadership characteristic. But they tend to choose attributes that directly affect the interaction between them and their boss such as the ability to motivate or being a good judge of character, and do not place as much emphasis on characteristics that may be invisible to them. Strategic skills or the development of the leadership team are two examples of characteristics important for leaders, however the majority of the workforce didn't refer to this through the course of our research."