Leadership is one of the sacred ideological icons of management. It’s the cornerstone in the image of the modern manager, and the image is taking a battering from a new study. A new survey in Australia has discovered that Australian workers, who work longer hours than most OECD countries with fewer public holidays, seriously lack faith in management leadership.
The study was carried out from deep within the heart of management-land, the Centre for Workplace Leadership in Melbourne. It was apparently a grim process indeed.
- 75% believe their workplace lacks leadership.
- The same percentage thinks they could do a better job themselves.
- 84% said they did work outside their jobs on their own initiative.
Even the praise, such as it was, was muted, to say the least. While over half of the workforce had “a leader to look up to”, only 35% of managers said they had a role model in their organization.
Management culture, or the lack of it
There are cultural issues here. One of the other big issues in the workplace are absentee managers who are rarely onsite doing their jobs. People who spend their entire working lives in meetings away from the areas they’re supposed to manager are hardly likely to be model leaders. A culture of perceived executive privilege and “edicts from on high” doesn’t endear itself to anyone much, either.
The problem is while that picture may be a superficial judgment the findings tend to bear out that picture indirectly. Workers take the initiative because they don’t have management inputs. The load of direct management is offloaded on to their staff, who naturally don’t think they’re getting “leadership” in any form.
The Centre for Workplace Leadership didn’t mince their words on the subject. They were in fact rather polite about their findings, but said unequivocally that leadership was seen as the missing ingredient in many workplaces, and that leadership was a core element in productivity.
Equally unambiguously, they made an equation:
Happy workers = Motivated workers, up to 30% more productive.
The ramifications of these findings, in a multi-faceted workforce, are obvious, creating a series of stages of dysfunction when leadership fails:
- Disengagement equates to lack of leadership.
- Lack of leadership equates to lack of motivation.
- Lack of motivation directly affects productivity.
- Lower productivity directly impacts business performance.
This is a far more honest and certainly much more direct approach to core issues than you’d usually expect from the “leadership industry”. It’s also a real departure from the universally despised “Aren’t we wonderful?” script.
Management science in general has done itself no favours in the public eye, often being seen as a mere image-manufacturing machine never doing any serious work. Most academic studies of management science are usually perceived as out of touch, self-serving, and never critical.
This new survey is a welcome return to reality. It leaves no room for doubt about the effects of failed leadership, and the prevalence of the problem. The “clueless boss” has no place in the modern workplace, industry or anywhere else on Earth. Let’s hope this is the first rumblings of a major culture shift.