Rigid hierarchies in the UK’s workplaces are preventing organisations from fostering good leadership and management skills throughout their workforces.
This is the view of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which said in its recent report Leadership- easier said than done that some businesses are heavily dependent on their ability to develop the skills of individual leaders.
As a result, workers who want to take on the responsibility of leadership are unable to apply the contents of their training sessions to their everyday work. Outdated structures make it harder to develop the managers of the future.
CIPD says that employers need to look carefully at whether their own reporting structure is still effective, and whether it allows them to go beyond training individual leaders to “improving the leadership capacity of the organisation as a whole”.
This kind of development can bear fruit in many ways – for employees, it could mean taking on more responsibility to prepare for management positions or having greater ownership over their own work.
But that’s exactly what modern workplaces are aiming for, through the model of “distributed leadership” that has grown in popularity, CIPD says. Firms are expecting employees to “lead from the front line” to ensure that customers and the employer alike have their needs met appropriately.
If businesses want to benefit from workers who take the initiative, they will have to invest in sound leadership training.
“It’s not enough to have one or two strong leaders at the top of an organisation. Everyone, particularly those on the front line, needs to be empowered to respond effectively to evolving external challenges and help take others with them on that journey,” says Ksenia Zhelthoukhova, CIPD research adviser.
“In order to be effective, leadership development has to be supported with organisational practices that empower the workforce and foster engagement: team-working, behaviour-based performance management and succession planning, collective reward and recognition, to name just a few.”
Though stricter hierarchies are still widely used to good effect in many organisations, a significant proportion of modern workplaces are taking a more relaxed approach that accommodates individuals taking more responsibility for their own work.