Bosses fail to show the qualities employees require from their leaders

HR Editorial , 23 Aug 2011

Engagement scores

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."


2 comments on this article

Your comment

Click here to comment

Post-heroic possibilities

Simon Hayward 23 Aug 2011

I agree with Tony that there are some leadership attributes that are relatively invisible to employees compared with those cited in this research - he mentions two. Interstingly this research emphasises many of the characteristics associated with authentic leadership, for which there is a stronger need than ever. Research has demonstrated the value of a less 'heroic' approach to leadership, with greater sharing of decision making and team-based working. Authentic leadership development is a key investment as we move through such challenging economic times, as it will encourage leaders at all levels to ground their teams and organisations on firm foundations.

Not surprising; employees are 'customers'

Robert HIcks 24 Aug 2011

In leadership terms, "the workforce" as a generic mass doesn't really exist. In my HR experience in the UK and USA, various elements of "the workforce" clearly want and need different things from their leaders, and the bigger the organization (vertcally and horizontally)the more it becomes apparent. What employees want/need is also influenced by their distance; the more remote they are from their 'leaders' the more likely it is that communication will be important, for example. If you see "the workforce" as a leadership portfolio of different types of 'customers' then their need for information, resources, and support will clearly vary, as the needs of 'customer' segments will vary with respect to the levels of service required from its suppliers. Leadership takes place within a specific context.It's the leader's role to find out who needs what and then do their best to meet those needs.

In this issue: August 2015
fragment image

Stand and deliver: Fresh austerity measures are on the way – but can public sector HR seize the strategic opportunity?

Eureka moment: HR at engineering firm AMFW

Going for gold: Maintaining the Olympic legacy

On the money: Providing innovative rewards

MA Business & Leisure Limited © Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved