By Claire West

A new type of leadership is needed in modern organisations in order to build positive workplace cultures that get the best out of people and support innovation, empowerment and ethical behaviour. This is a conclusion that emerges from a new CIPD research report Perspectives on leadership in 2012: Implications for HR. The report summarises the main developments in recent leadership theory and leadership development, as well as the key role of HR in building leadership capability.

It highlights various factors that are influencing leadership theory, including falling levels of trust in political and business leadership as a result of the financial crisis, the MPs expenses scandal and public concern over excessive boardroom pay, bonuses and rewards for failure. The report authors, Rachel Lewis and Emma Donaldson-Feilder, examine the elements of three emerging strands of leadership theory; relational leadership, values-based leadership and contextual leadership.

The first two highlight the quality of the relationship between leader and their direct report, and emphasise the importance of leaders who are self-aware and can display honesty, integrity and strongly held ethical and moral principles. Contextual leadership focuses on how leadership is influenced by the culture and systems of the organisation as a whole, for example, by its values and the extent to which managers are empowered to lead at all levels of an organisation.

The report also highlights key insights for leadership development, for example, evidence suggesting that if a manager regards themselves as a leader they are more likely to behave like one. Managers must also want to learn if development activities are to have any impact so a focus on understanding why people might be motivated to become leaders is also crucial.

Finally it examines the critical role of HR in developing leadership capability by

• Defining what good leadership is

• Developing leadership and follower skills

• Creating systems, processes and policies that support good leadership

• Creating conditions in which the value of leadership is recognised

• Ensuring that leadership development frameworks are aligned with organisations’ core purpose and values

• Deploying a range of ongoing learning interventions to support sustained behaviour change.

Peter Cheese, CEO at the CIPD, comments: “Leadership is no longer just about the boardroom; managers at all levels need leadership skills — the power to win people’s hearts and minds and build relationships based on mutual trust and respect. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, the key to performance is through engaging employees in ways that produce discretionary effort and creating an environment which encourages greater employee empowerment and voice to facilitate the exchange of ideas and know-how.”

“Today’s leaders need to be self aware, have a strong moral compass, and understand that their behaviour is key to whether an organisation’s values are worth more than a passing reference in the annual report or on the company intranet

“In order to build this type of leadership capability, the role of HR is fundamental. HR needs to ensure that how managers are recruited, managed, trained and promoted supports the development of required leadership skills and behaviours. HR must ensure that leadership development frameworks are aligned with organisations’ core purpose and values and understand how to deploy a range of ongoing learning interventions that actually lead to sustained behaviour change. The days of sheep-dip manager training are over.”