UK employees demotivated due to leadership "crisis"

Tom Newcombe , 03 Apr 2013


UK leaders are generating demotivating working environments for their employees, according to research published today from global management consultancy Hay Group.

The research conducted over a seven-year period up to 2012 surveyed more than 14,000 leaders. It found that while good leadership is synonymous with a flexible approach tailored to the situation, over one third (38%) have mastered none or only one leadership style, compared to just one quarter (2%) who are able to adopt a range of four or more styles.

Hay Group said it is unsurprising that just over one in six (18%) leaders in the UK are able to create a high-performance environment for their employees. More than half (50%) of leaders are generating demotivating working climates.

The research did show that UK leaders have taken some positive steps to improve flexibility and tackle motivation. For example, the number of leaders able to use four or more styles has climbed by 6% since 2005. And, by contrast, the proportion of leaders creating demotivating environments has fallen by 12%.

Melody Moore, consultant at Hay Group, said: "A leader's behaviour is the single biggest factor influencing the team working environment.

"Good leadership has the power to energise, engage and motivate staff to go the extra mile for their organisation. Poor leadership will have the opposite effect, creating a demotivating environment and leading in time to poor team performance including high staff turnover and frequent absences.

"With the country facing ongoing economic uncertainty, it is crucial that UK leaders master the full arsenal of styles in order to get the best from their people and drive all important growth."

The research also showed the use of the "coercive" style is rising among UK leaders, as economic uncertainty prevails. Characterised by a 'just do it' attitude, this type of leader takes control, instructing and managing employees with a critical eye, the research found.

Once a rarely used style in the UK, it is now frequently adopted by over a quarter (26%) of leaders. This represents a rise of 10% since 2005, and a clear jump of 5% between the 'crunch' years - 2008 and 2009.

Moore said: "The coercive style is extremely effective in a crisis, creating clarity about expectation and ensuring the correct actions are taken quickly.

"But a crisis is an event, not a prolonged state. Over-reliance on the coercive leadership style is unsustainable over the long term, eroding innovation and creativity among employees."

The research revealed that UK leaders who create high performance climates are set apart by their ability to tailor their approach to the situation.

Nearly half (48%) are comfortable using four or more leadership styles, compared to just one in ten (9%) among those who create demotivating environments.

Moore added: "In the same way a golfer uses a range of clubs, leaders need to utilise multiple approaches, and be able to adjust to each team member or business situation.

"UK leaders are inspiring their teams by sharing the big picture, and have a strong focus on people and their development. But in order to compete in the global business environment and boost performance, leaders must also drive up standards by developing their pacesetting style, and encourage innovation by involving others in decision-making."

6 comments on this article

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Tony Nelson 03 Apr 2013

You will not generate a high performance environment using coercive or pace-setting leadership styles. The leadership challenge is to engage employees productively. And that requires people - centred approaches.

Pace-Setting Used Too Much

John Knights, LeaderShape 03 Apr 2013

Referring to "But in order to compete in the global business environment and boost performance, leaders must also drive up standards by developing their pacesetting style …", our research and experience suggests that the Pace-Setting style is already dominant in UK organisations and needs to be supplemented with Coaching, Democratic and Affiliative Styles. Far too often leaders use a pace-setting style without empathy which leads to a total lack of engagement. Employees are inundated with targets that are set from on high, rather than setting more holistic goals. I would totally agree with the comment from Tony Nelson

A managers point of view

Hamilton 04 Apr 2013

I set out the working environment, empower and Include. As a team we will go forward with the same objectives, you will be informed at regular intervals how the business is doing, we will have targets to meet, but we will meet them together. We will be open and honest with each other, we are all equal as human beings. This very quickly builds a strong, motivated, tenacious and successful team. We are in it together. My philosophy works.


Helen Marriott 09 Apr 2013

Based on the stats given in this article and my own experience of poor leadership where I used to work, I think there is a leadership crisis in the UK which managers desperately need to address . They cannot afford to go on blaming the workforce for poor performance. They need to take responsibility for their own actions.


JayneHarrison 09 Apr 2013

I would be interested to understand more about how the results were produced before making a comment. Bearing in mind Hay Group specialize in leadership development, one might assume that the statistics are skewed because they may focus on assessing leaders' styles prior to any development perhaps? That said, a varied leadership repertoire is essential for today's leader and should be encouraged either through coaching/mentoring or more formal learning. More context around which leaders were selected and at what stage of their development they were at, would be useful.

Additional Detail

Melody Moore 11 Apr 2013

Thanks for the interesting comments everyone. To give a bit of detail, the data was from 14,000 leaders in 400 organisations who took our Styles and Climate surveys between 2005 and 2012. We use the diagnostics both pre and post development programmes, so it is a mixture of the two. If you want to know more why not join our webinar on May 16th where we will discuss the UK and Global results in more detail? You can sign up here:

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