HR must avoid traditional “sheep-dip” management training approaches and instead find fresh ways to develop the new kind of leader required to thrive in today’s knowledge-based economy.
According to a report published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, these leaders are necessary to build a positive workplace culture that is able to get the best out of people by empowering them, supporting innovation and encouraging ethical behaviour.
But falling levels of trust in both business and political leaders means that personality traits such as self-awareness, honesty, integrity and strongly-held ethical and moral principles are more important than ever.
The study entitled ‘Perspectives on leadership in 2012: Implications for HR' also indicated that, if a manager regards themselves as a leader, they are more likely to behave like one.
A desire to learn is likewise important if learning and development activities are to have any impact, which means that understanding what makes people tick and why they are motivated to become leaders is vital.
Peter Cheese, the CIPD’s chief executive, said that the need for effective leadership based on winning hearts and minds and building relationships founded on mutual trust and respect was no longer just confined to the boardroom but was required at all levels of the business.
“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,” he said.
This meant that today’s leaders needed to be more self-aware than in the past. They also had to have a strong moral compass and understand that their behaviour was “key to whether an organisation’s values are worth more than a passing reference in the annual report or on the company intranet”, Cheese added.
But he also pointed out that HR was “fundamental” to building this kind of leadership capability. “HR needs to ensure that how managers are recruited, managed, trained and promoted supports the development of required leadership skills and behaviours,” Cheese said.
The function also had to ensure that leadership development frameworks were aligned with the organisation’s core purpose and values and that managers were offered suitable learning opportunities that could lead to sustained behavioural change.
“The days of sheep-dip manager training are over,” Cheese said. Instead HR should help to develop leaders by:
- Defining what good leadership means
- Developing leadership and follower skills
- Creating systems, processes and policies that support good leadership
- Developing the right conditions to ensure that the value of leadership is recognised
- Ensuring that leadership development frameworks are aligned with the organisation's core purpose and values
- Offering a range of on-going learning opportunities to support sustained behavioural change.