By Claire West

There is no substitute for failure when it comes to identifying and developing great leaders, according to research published today (05 October) by the Institute of Leadership & Management. The report, Creating Future Leaders, reveals that a quarter of employers (24%) look for candidates who have experienced failure and bounced back from difficult challenges when identifying their next generation of leaders.

The Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) asked HR professionals from commercial organisations, the majority of which employ over 1,000 staff, their views on their current senior management teams, how they identify and develop potential future leaders, and what aspiring leaders can do to improve their career prospects.

It found that a worrying 94% of respondents believe their senior management lack essential leadership qualities and require development in these areas. The ability to motivate (36%) and emotional intelligence (34%) were seen as the most important characteristics for effective leaders.

Penny de Valk, Chief Executive of ILM, said: “Our research shows the value employers place on experiencing failure. A path of unbroken success on your CV suggests a manager hasn’t really been tested. But failure is not something we’re particularly comfortable with in the UK, it is not seen as a rite of passage”.

De Valk continued: “It is also a real concern that such a high proportion of HR professionals believe their senior teams are falling short. This leadership skills gap is holding UK businesses back. We need to get better at developing these essential people leadership capabilities, such as the ability to motivate, alongside the ‘harder’ technical, professional and commercial skills.”

Creating Future Leaders looked at how much value employers placed on an MBA when recruiting future leaders. 68% percent considered the qualification to be of low importance in the recruitment process and the majority (84%) were ambivalent about their effectiveness in developing the required characteristics of future business leaders. Nearly a third of respondents deemed the MBA ineffective at developing personal characteristics.

Talking about the value of MBAs to employers, Penny de Valk, said: “It is clear that employers do see the value of the MBA to an individual’s professional development, and it is considered effective in developing a theoretical understanding of business and expanding personal networks. However, the value of MBAs to organisations is less clear. The people we talked to highlighted that they want flexible and bespoke training that is tailored to their business and reflective of the organisation’s specific needs.

“Employers want value for money and a real return on their investment in management development that translates into results in the workplace.”

Other findings

•Over half of employers (54%) saw a deep understanding of broad business issues and commercial acumen as essential qualities for future leaders.

•36% of employers highlighted the ability to understand, inspire and motivate people as key.

•High levels of emotional intelligence and people skills were considered vital (34%).

•Natural leadership ability, trustworthiness, communication skills, vision and drive were identified as important leadership qualities.

•Overall, the most important characteristic identified was the ‘whole package’ — leaders who are multifaceted and possess a combination of industry knowledge, commercial acumen, resilience, drive and self-awareness.

“Career success is dependent on a manager demonstrating and developing a rich palette of knowledge, capabilities and personal attributes,” said de Valk. “This requires a commitment from both the individual and the organisation to ongoing development at every stage of their career.”

The full Creating Future Leaders report is available is available to download from ILM’s website: www.i-l-m.com.