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Cutting the mustard


Themes: Leadership

Cutting the mustardResearch suggests that many employees feel their leaders are not up to their jobs. But just what does effective leadership looks like in the current financial environment?

A change in traditional autocratic leadership styles to organic, network-based management is being driven by the present economic and financial environment.

That is one of the conclusions in the first of a series of discussions around the pressures and changes facing leadership today. Taking part are Dr Jonathan Trevor, Lecturer in Human Resources & Organisations at Cambridge Judge Business School, and Kate Tojeiro, executive coach and Managing Director of Xfusion.

They reflect on a recurring theme to emerge from research among large and small organisations: that workers have lost faith in the capability and leadership of their bosses.

Dr Trevor cautions that there are contradictory reports around the picture of effective leadership in the current financial environment. Levels of satisfaction, engagement, loyalty and motivation in organisations are said to be at an all-time low but there other measures which indicate that, given the difficult environment, some leaders are managing people very well.

“We are seeing a transition in terms of styles of leadership from autocratic command-and-control, which made sense in bureaucratic hierarchical organisation, where essentially power is concentrated at the top and the majority of the organisation is about execution, to something which is far more organic, far more network-based. Within that, leadership does look different.”

He adds that qualities around coaching, empathy, emotional intelligence and the ability to connect and engage with people throughout an organisation, not just in a purely top-down fashion, are important.

Dr Trevor believes the financial crisis, although deeply disturbing for a great many people in terms of job security with fear and uncertainty, has forced the leadership issue.

There is great innovation in the leadership sphere to cope in a very challenging environment.

“I think it is fair to say that many people view their bosses are simply not performing well or giving the type of leadership employees want in these times. Equally there’s another dimension that is forcing the agenda. We are seeing some tremendously exciting things, particularly things that will fit for the future. There is an upside, a silver lining, difficult though it may be in these current times.”