A disconnect between HR leaders and line managers has been highlighted in a new report from change-management consultants Business Linked Teams. [1]

Entitled Grow Your Own Leader, the report notes: “Line managers need their own training and support to ensure they can perform their roles in developing future leaders within their own teams or departments. Essentially, their own roles need to be developed in order to satisfy the development of those that they have identified as potential leaders.”

It adds: “Not only is it vital that HR leaders get this right in an organisation’s HQ, it is prudent that this approach is repeated in each different region or market where the leadership development programme is being rolled out. While this best practice approach should be followed, it is important to ensure that the programme is tailored to each different market or region, taking into account various local and cultural factors.

“However, it is surprising that – despite the rise of globalisation – only 16% of HR decision makers say they have a global strategy with localised leadership training programmes.”

Business Linked Teams managing director Samantha Caine says: “It’s clear that HR leaders are placing too much expectation on line managers without providing the right levels of support. As a result, line managers are struggling to overcome the challenges identified on top of their existing day to day challenges.”

She adds: “As organisations face the challenges of a globalised marketplace, they require experienced leadership that knows the business inside out and can seamlessly succeed current leadership while demonstrating the skills and behaviours required to bolster the organisation in each specific market.”

Speaking to People Management magazine about the report, Institute for Employment Studies principal research fellow Dan Lucy says: “Unfortunately, it’s still the case that too many individuals attain leadership positions as a consequence of technical competence without any real interest or capability in managing or developing people. HR has a huge and important role to play here in ensuring that the right people are put in leadership positions, and their capabilities developed.” [2]

How should firms provide more support to line managers who are trying to help other staff develop leadership skills?

The Institute of Leadership & Management's head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “We at the Institute talk a great deal about the increasing burden of expectation that the working world is placing upon the line manager. Every lobbying group seems to look to the line manager as a solution provider. As a result, we have a situation where the mental health of employees is part of the line manager’s remit, together with areas such as learning transfer, mediation and coaching. That’s a significant set of responsibilities. And now we have this call for line managers to be developers of leaders.”

Cooper explains: “one of the problems with leadership development, in the way that it is currently delivered, is that it tends to be expensive. And because it’s expensive, budgets often don’t stretch to enable large numbers of staff to take part in it. But if you’re serious about developing leaders within your organisation, you have to put things in place that will encourage that to happen. For example, you have to include it as part of your performance management methodology.”

That said, Cooper notes, “one issue that the Institute returns to time and again is that recruits who have the technical skills to rise to more senior levels in organisations won’t always need to have lots of people reporting to them to demonstrate that seniority. There are different types of roles and job designs that will enable people to achieve advancement without what one may view as the traditional trappings of leadership – such as large teams to run. So firms must be open to the importance of those roles.”

In Cooper’s view, “Dan Lucy’s comments seem to miss the point, here: surely we should be developing people’s capabilities before they are placed in leadership positions? And what do we mean by the ‘right people’? There’s a ‘natural leaders’ sense to that phrase, which feels uncomfortably close to notions of heroic leadership – and overlooks the idea that leadership talent can emerge from a variety of quarters. What is required is a new, cultural approach to how we develop leaders – one that is cost effective, and doesn’t focus on just a select few that will be lined up for costly leadership development programmes.”

She adds: “one solution that immediately comes to mind is technology – for example, e-learning courses for first-time managers are widespread. But it’s not just the knowledge that people need to access. It’s the whole process of being able to talk about what they’re learning – to have conversations about their development within an enthusiastic culture, in which their peers are picking up the same skills. Those conversations are key to helping people demonstrate and embed their new learnings. Leadership, after all, is about how you relate to people. It’s about how you understand them – and vice-versa.”

For further thoughts on developing talent, check out these learning resources from the Institute

Source refs: [1] [2]

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