By Marcus Leach

Effective leadership is important to long term business success, yet according to research only a third (36%) of UK leaders and one in five (18%) UK HR professionals rate the quality of leadership as ‘high’ in their organisations.

New research from talent management consultancy, DDI, and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) UK Highlights: Global Leadership Forecast, reveals that only a third (36%) of UK leaders and one in five (18%) UK HR professionals rate the quality of leadership as ‘high’ in their organisations.

Despite findings pointing to an overall lack of leadership in UK organisations, only four in 10 (38%) of both UK leaders and HR professionals rate their organisations’ leadership development programmes as highly effective. Twenty per cent of leaders and 24% of HR professionals rate the programmes as ineffective.

The survey, based on responses from 56 HR professionals and 367 leaders in the UK, identifies the key leadership skills needed to ensure success in the next three years — driving and managing change (identified by 69% of leaders), making difficult decisions (34%) and executing organisation strategy (32%). Three drivers of leadership quality are also highlighted in the findings: leadership development, talent management and management culture.

“Leadership development budgets remain tight, particularly in the UK, yet effective leaders make a real difference to the success of organisations. If UK organisations are to continue to be successful on the world stage, then leaders need to be equipped with the key skills that our survey identified," Vanessa Robinson, Head of HR Practice Development, CIPD, said.

“UK organisations, like the rest of the world, should focus on opening up decision making in their organisation and creating a set of shared and meaningful values for their employees. Earlier research from the CIPD has looked at this issue of creating a sense of shared purpose and the value that can be achieved for both the employees and the organisation as a whole.

“Talent should be another important focus for UK organisations. Given the higher external failure rates of leaders and the significant costs associated with external hires, effective succession, or ‘grow-your-own’ tactics, will be an increasingly important talent strategy. HR’s role in ensuring these talents are developed will be pivotal, especially as the UK population ages, and hence the senior-level workforce expands.”

Meanwhile Steve Newhall, Managing Director, DDI, said the research paints a a worrying picture for UK businesses.

“The lack of ability to fill vacant leadership positions coupled with the inconsistent approach to high potential development paints a worrying picture for UK business," he said.

"With a significantly high failure rate of external hires in the UK, identifying and nurturing internal talent is vital. To ensure organisations do have the leadership coming through that they need, they simply have to focus the finite development budget on those with most potential.

“The findings of the survey must be read in the context of a severe recession. Organisations in the UK suffered greatly and their leaders were under intense pressure. So the poor picture of UK leadership is perhaps not surprising. But the report tells us that leadership really does matter and good leadership makes an immense difference to the success of the organisation. Leaders themselves are telling us the skills they need and what development and talent management processes are most effective. If we in the HR and development profession listen to who are in reality our customers, we can play a pivotal role in the success of our leaders and our organisation.”

Other highlights include:

- HR professionals from the UK and around the world report using formal workshops, manager coaching and special projects most frequently to develop their leaders and UK organisations compared to the global comparison report greater use of more formal training.

- Leaders themselves in both the UK and global samples identified formal workshops as the single most effective development method.

- Coaching from internal mentors is more widely accepted and utilised by UK leaders (48%) than those worldwide (45%).

- Computer-based learning such as web-based training (37%) and virtual classrooms (22%) are used less frequently by UK leaders than leaders across the globe (global- web-based training 43% and -virtual 27%).

- Only 20 % of HR professionals in the UK rated their ability to fill vacant leadership positions (bench strength) as strong or very strong.

- 81 % of leaders in the UK reported that their individual performance expectations were tied to corporate goals and strategies.

- 57 % of the UK leaders reported that their performance management systems generally took into account not only what, but how their objectives were achieved.

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