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Managers struggling to make the leap to leadership

Managers struggling to make the leap to leadership

New research: a significant number of managers lack core leadership capabilities.

Many managers lack the aptitude and confidence required to step up into leadership roles as research by Penna, a global people management business, reveals today.  Only 14 percent of those managers questioned describe themselves as “visionary” and just 9 percent said they are “authoritative” – both crucial leadership qualities. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by employees either, as not even half described their manager as an “excellent team leader” (45 percent). 

Furthermore, almost a quarter (22 percent) of employees said their manager is failing to engage the team effectively and is not having a positive impact on team morale. Employees also questioned their manager’s ability to influence their senior stakeholders, with almost half (43 percent) saying that their manager had only limited power in this regard. 

The word that employees most associated with their manager is “friendly” (46 percent), followed by “fair” (26 percent), “supportive” (25 percent) and “accessible” (23 percent). While complementary, these descriptions all relate to the softer aspects of people management as opposed to fundamental leader qualities like being inspirational, assertive or motivational. Employees said their manager was, in the face of challenges, more likely to make themselves part of the solution rather than empowering the team to resolve the situation (23 percent vs. 17 percent). 

Commenting on the research Penny de Valk, managing director of Penna Talent Practice, said: “In order to retain competitive advantage, businesses must have impactful leaders. They can’t risk having managers falling into leadership roles, not knowing what they are doing and disengaging those they are meant to be ensuring the high performance of. Our research reveals that managers aren’t confident in their own leadership abilities and nor are their direct reports. These capabilities need to be actively developed, or organisations risk falling short of their strategic goals and growth plans with weakness at the very top.” 

Providing evidence of a breakdown in communication, 40 percent of managers said that they “slightly agree” that their direct reports know what is expected from them. Additionally, less than a quarter (23 percent) of managers said they coach individuals, particularly through new tasks and projects – putting additional strain on the relationship, where employees aren’t already sure of what is expected from them and are then left to their own devices. Tellingly, just 14 percent of managers described themselves as a better coach than those who have managed them now or in the past. 

Penny added: “It’s concerning that the research finds that managers have limited influence on senior stakeholders and aren’t developing their direct reports’ skills either. In order for managers to step into a leadership role, they need much more influence and gravitas than they have now. And to get there, they need to hone their talents for communicating a vision and acting as a facilitator, in order to take their direct reports with them. Coaching is a crucial part of being an effective leader, so businesses really need to consider whether they will allow their managers to keep plodding on – or start investing in their bright futures at the helm.”

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