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Important leadership trends in 2013

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6th Mar 2013
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In this rapidly changing business environment, keeping abreast of important leadership trends will be key to success in 2013. Graham Scrivener ruminates.

This year companies are continuing to face a tough business climate. The driving force behind the success of a company will be the leadership abilities of its employees. A report on Leadership and Management in the UK by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that 'nearly three quarters of organisations in England reported a deficit of management and leadership skills in 2012.'

Leadership at all levels is key. Here are five trends having a big impact on business in 2013 which makes leadership even more important:

Uncertainty makes leadership more important, yet harder

Uncertainty is now the new norm. Recent years have shown us that the business environment is volatile, and this year will be no exception. According to our research, twice as many business leaders say 'the ability to change' is a key challenge as compared with 2010. Plus, companies are launching more change initiatives than ever – as many as five per year, on average. However, the increased uncertainty among staff often prevents change programmes from sticking due to employees feeling a lack of confidence in management. 

First-line leaders matter

Companies should be spending more time on developing their first-line leaders (i.e. the first level of management). First-line leaders are the largest and arguably most important group of leaders in any organisation. The linchpin in strategy execution, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement, they are the main driver of business results. First-line leaders are critical in communicating strategy to the work force and putting it into action.

Many people are promoted to first-line leadership roles based on their technical skills and knowledge. But it’s the people skills that will make them successful. Research by the CIPD revealed that 85% of respondents reported that first-line leaders lack these skills. Our research shows you should invest at least one-third of your total leadership development budget in your first-line leaders.  

People-leadership skills at all levels are vital

Research shows that the ability to lead people effectively - people-leadership skills - is roughly three to four times more important to a leader's career success than other skills and knowledge. And of course it isn’t just the individual who benefits. Better performing organisations report much higher use of key people-leadership practices.

I believe that effective leaders should become masters in four key people leadership areas:

  • Thinking like a leader
  • Coaching a team
  • Getting results through others
  • Engaging employees

Improving employee engagement is critical

According to Gallup’s 'state of the global workplace' study, organisations with engaged employees have significantly lower absenteeism, turnover and accidents, while productivity and profitability are much higher. Research has uncovered 25 engagement factors and five core engagement needs. By knowing these factors and the core needs, a leader can have a big impact on team and individual engagement.

Boot camp training is so 2012

Employees need more engagement in training – a one-off training day for all will not suffice. A recent Forum survey of 700 leaders worldwide found that 91% of respondents felt they have too much work on their plate, while 75% said they have little or no capacity to do more with less. People have little desire to attend a training course where they are forced to work at full-capacity all-day. Instead, people who are keen to progress should be given a break. Companies should ensure that training programmes are practical and challenging, and provide an opportunity for staff to bond as a team.

It’s also important that a company’s employees sustain their training initiatives on the job (this needs to have a process to ensure it happens, otherwise they might simply be forgotten). Be creative and the training rewards for staff will speak for themselves.

Graham Scrivener is the managing director of The Forum Corporation’s Europe, Middle East and Africa division

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