Leadership: power to your people

Investing in leadership training can help overcome barriers to innovation and improve competitiveness. Ai Group explains.

Major management research undertaken in 2016 by the Centre for Workplace Leadership revealed that Australian organisations should be concerned about the state of leadership and management capability in this country – and the verdict came from sources including Australian managers themselves.

Surveying almost 8,000 individuals, from baseline employees up to CEOs, The Study of Australian Leadership” represented the largest study of its kind ever undertaken in Australia. It was also the first in more than 20 years to ask whether Australia had the capabilities to meet future challenges and remain competitive.

Placing a big question mark over the capabilities of our leaders, the findings of the study highlighted seven gaps and weaknesses:

  1. Many Australian workplaces are underperforming – More than 40 per cent are not meeting performance targets and one third underperform against their sales targets.
  2. Many Australian organisations do not get the basics right – Many leaders and managers fail to master basic management fundamentals such as performance monitoring, target setting and the appropriate use of incentives.
  3. Few Australian organisations report high levels of innovation Only 18 per cent of private sector organisations report high levels of innovation. Without high levels of innovation, growth and productivity are impeded.
  4. Many Australian leaders are not well trained for the job – One in four senior leaders in the private sector have no qualifications beyond secondary school. Formal education is not the only path to successful management and leadership, but it remains an important foundation for a diverse range of skills.
  5. Too many organisations underinvest in leadership development, especially at the frontlineThe study revealed that investing in leadership development is positively correlated with workplace performance and innovation. Yet the findings reveal that many workplaces are investing little or not at all in leadership development. For those that do invest, it is often in the wrong areas. Recent evidence for the Asia-Pacific region shows that for every 10 dollars spent on senior leaders, only one dollar is spent on frontline leaders.
  6. Leadership in Australian organisations does not reflect wider social diversity –Diversity is associated with greater creativity and innovation, improved productivity, and higher employee engagement and commitment. Leadership in Australian organisations is dominated by older males from English speaking backgrounds. Women, younger leaders, and leaders from a non-English speaking background are underrepresented.
  7. Many senior leaders do not draw on strategic advice in making decisions about the future – Few leaders seek advice from external sources such as associations, consultants, experts, or other senior leaders in their industry or elsewhere. In the current environment marked with disruption and uncertainty, this leaves organisations vulnerable to poor strategic insight and decision making.

The study paints a concerning picture about the current state of leadership in Australia and mirrors much of the discussion in Ai Group’s own research, outlined in our policy paper, “Addressing Enterprise Leadership in Australia”. On an international scale, Australia’s ranking in leadership and management efficacy has been falling against a number of measures over recent years.

So how can Australia lift its leadership capabilities in order to enhance innovation, productivity and sustainability?

The positive relationship between investing in leadership development and improved workplace performance, employee engagement and ability to meet KPIs has been well documented. In light of this, it is imperative that organisations direct their attention to longer-term value creation and understand how best to develop effective leadership capabilities at all levels. The overarching message of the study is that investing in leadership capability pays.

Ai Group is committed to improving Australia’s leadership capabilities and works with organisations to link business strategy and key drivers with a sound leadership strategy and associated development needs.Leadership training benefits everyone throughout the business, trickling down from the top level of management to the supervisors, managers and team leaders below. When management is strong at the top level, these positive effects will have a flow-on effect to all employees.

Excellent operators often have to learn a whole new set of skills when they rise to management level. They need help in their transition to the mindset of being a leader. Effective leadership training allows them to learn to lead and motivate a team successfully. Developing leadership skills can not only provide important business competence and support professional development, but it also helps develop interpersonal skills. Additionally, leadership training teaches participants to encourage feedback from their team, creating a collaborative group which promotes a cohesive and cooperative working environment that fosters creativity and initiative.

Ai Group’s leadership and management topics – covered in a “Leadership Course Creator” that allows an organisation to shape a leadership program specific to its own needs – are designed to establish and make clear the essential skills required to succeed in a leadership and management role. You can choose from any of the 37 topics available to put together your own training course.

Each topic runs for approximately 2.5 hours and typically three topics can be covered in a day. This is not to say you have to run a full day of training. The “Leadership Course Creator” is totally flexible so you can run one topic or 15 topics over whatever period suits you.

Australia’s future, its level of innovation uptake and its ongoing competitiveness and sustainability will largely depend on the capability of our leadership and the changes we make now. The same outlook can be applied at the enterprise level. There is no better time than the present to ask has your organisation identified a gap in leadership skills? And have you developed a response to address the problem?