Young people can fix the leadership crisis

We must develop socially-aware young people in the workforce to take on leadership challenges, according to Ivy House MD Elke Edwards

Speaking about the Ivy House Programme, which mentors and develops high-potential young people from organisations including M&S, Aviva, and Sainsbury's, Ivy House London managing director Edwards said that organisations need to change the way they view leadership.

"Leadership is in crisis. There isn’t a week that goes by where we don’t hear about some sort of god-like leader who has fallen off his pedestal," she said.

"We have one thing after another where businesses seem to be falling apart. What really gets to me isn’t the headlines, but the everyday behaviours we see in our organisations that have become accepted as normal.

"We need a new kind of leader; we need leaders who will practise agile power as opposed to positional power, people who recognise change is an everyday part of business."

Edwards went on to say that while employers know the characteristics of good leadership in theory, they often fail to develop talented young people to help organisations reach their full potential.

"We’ve never known more about what it takes to become a brilliant leader, so how do we create environments within our businesses to make it easy for them to become exceptional? We need the creative thinking, the risk taking, and the ways of thinking that young people can bring around the leadership table," she said.

A strong sense of values, advanced learning, and a sense of purpose are all important to the Millennial workforce, Edwards stated.

"Different things matter to them; they are the most morally- and socially-aware generation ever," she said. "We need to value what they value, and create value in which they thrive. What they want is to be part of the solution.

"They also want work that matters to them – far more than any generation. We need to find a way of matching their sense of purpose with our organisations."

Edwards cited research stating that by 2021 there could be a deficit of 500,000 managers in the UK, as many organisations do not know how to identify or develop talent. She said that HR should take charge in creating organisations that champion emerging talent.

"Think of your emerging talent as customers: how are you going to get them to become advocates of your brand and absolutely want to stay? Don’t turn around to every one of your senior leaders and say 'now we expect you to coach'. It never works."

Edwards added: "If us in the industry aren’t prepared to make changes, I don’t think it’s going to come from senior people within the business. We need to put our heads above the parapet and say that we need these emerging leaders. And we need to be prepared to get out there and do something about it."