Take me to your leader

Only 67 percent of our best middle and
junior managers have leadership potential. That’s what their bosses said in the latest NZIM Leadership Survey carried out by the Centre for the Study of Leadership.
NZIM members were asked to rate their immediate subordinates on number of leadership and other dimensions.
Using the proven ‘transformational leadership’ questionnaire we tested for the presence of leadership behaviours.
The ‘best’ leaders are those who scored in the top half of the survey scores for transformational leadership. It is disturbing that only 2/3 of them are believed capable of doing better in these regards.
This could be because some of them are already senior managers and very successful as leaders.
However, the question was asked if they could be ‘higher’ and ‘more effective’. Only two thirds could.

Movin’ on up
We also investigated beliefs about managers’ capabilities to:
a) move into higher positions of management and
b) be more effective leaders in future.
The results indicated that:
Only one half of the managers surveyed across New Zealand in this study believed that their subordinate managers have high capability of becoming more effective leaders and of moving successfully into higher positions of management.
Unfortunately, 21 percent possess only one of these capabilities to high level and therefore have low likelihood of becoming effective leaders in the future. In addition, sadly, 28 percent score poorly on both capability measures.

The capability
Some observers have noted that due to the lack of experienced leadership talent in New Zealand, there’s been an unsustainable trend through the 1990s to recruit top management from other countries.
Other commentators suggested the scarcity of experienced leaders is worldwide phenomenon and perhaps foreign management can no longer be misconceived of as an unlimited source.
Therefore, more than ever New Zealand needs to develop its own leaders, something hitherto unrecognised.
1. The first step is to understand what, and how much, leadership capability we have in New Zealand.
2. The next step is to envisage what the managerial leadership of the immediate future will look like, and optimise it while we have chance. The New Zealand Leadership Survey has commenced this process.

As good as it gets?
We found the quality of the leadership of our managers and potential future New Zealand leaders is as good as in other countries. The scores for leadership behaviours gained by our managers in this survey are no less than international norms, and often higher. Moreover, high levels of integrity in our managers have been identified. It can be inferred from our results that there is pool of potential leadership talent that may be translated and developed into effective leaders in the future. The challenge is to use them and not lose them.

Seeing is believing
Given the strong correlations between the demonstration of leadership and organisational measures of effectiveness, it’s likely there are also positive correlations between leadership style and future capability. This proposition was supported in this research.
The more frequently managers demonstrated leadership, the more they were believed to be capable of moving into more senior positions of management and of being more effective leaders in future.
The correlations ranged from 0.54 to 0.48. Both are quite strong correlations for this type of research.
Intuitively, it makes sense that those managers who possess effective leadership skills currently are more likely to demonstrate capability of becoming more effective leaders and moving into higher positions in the future. The current results support this.

Scouting leaders
It also suggests the need for New Zealand organisations firstly to identify the leadership talent within their organisations.
Second, make opportunities for these people to gain management experience and to move into positions of leadership.
The ‘organisational roadblocks’ to this happening were not the subject of this research, but identifying these roadblocks should be concern if management is serious about getting the best managers into more responsible positions.
More specifically, those people who demonstrate effective leadership skills should be identified and developed as well as given opportunities to move into more challenging positions of management where appropriate.
We can profile individuals against range of validated leadership criteria. Conversely, those who demonstrate less effective leadership skills should be encouraged and given the opportunity and support to utilise alternative, more effective leadership strategies, to raise their future leadership capability.

Leaping offshore
The degree to which managers go overseas to work has the potential to impact on leadership development. We found over 70 percent of managers are likely to be still working in New Zealand in five years’ time. However, considerable group (12.5 percent) of our current managers is predicted to have left and be working outside New Zealand within five years, while another 14.5 percent might also follow this route.
Only 25 percent of the managers who rated as above average at leadership, and have higher than average capability of moving into senior management as effective leaders, are also believed to still be in New Zealand in five years’ time.
In other words, only one in four of our best potential management talent might still be here in five years.

Increasing turbulence
We hear lot about the uncertainty and turbulence of change that we face at work.
We found that the majority (over 80 percent) of NZ managers believe that to some extent their future organisational environment will be more uncertain and more turbulent than it is currently.
Only small percentage believes that uncertainty and turbulence will not increase in the future.
The implication is that effective New Zealand managers will need to prepare themselves, as well as facilitate the preparation of their colleagues and their organisations, for likely turbulence and uncertainty in the future.
The question is are managers anticipating this turbulence and change and are they in position to become proactive in avoiding the negative impacts.
Let’s remember that the uncertainty and turbulence of change pose particular challenges for leadership. We know from previous research that part of the essence of leadership lies in enhancing the adaptability of people to the uncertainty and turbulence of change; and resolving that uncertainty.
Consequently, there is great need for organisational leadership in New Zealand in the next five years, at least.

Plan of attack
1. Identify the best leaders.
2. Accept dual responsibility for their development. Remember if individuals are solely responsible for their ongoing professional development, they will feel fewer obligations to their organisation — they are less likely to have qualms about leaving an organisation to realise return on their personal developmental investment. Perceived benefit to the organisation and the individual is the vital force of organisations.
3. Give them reason to stay. Incentives for staying and working within your organisation (and therefore New Zealand) should be incorporated into current management development strategies, career development plans, and organisational development interventions.
4. Bring them back. career might entail time away from the organisation in another country. In fact, it might be preferable. However, give them something to come home to.
5. Continue to develop leadership. After all, leadership
• reflects future capability
• reflects integrity and ethical behaviour
• overcomes uncertainty and copes with change
• improves the ‘bottom line’.
This research is from the 1999 New Zealand Leadership Survey, by the Centre for the Study of Leadership. The Centre is joint venture of the New Zeala

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