With the start of the new year, many organisations will be looking to
enhance their performance through the quality of their leadership. It is up to
HR to set a good example and lead the way
What is your New Year’s resolution? Giving up smoking? Joining a gym? Or
breathing new life into your organisation, perhaps?
If it is the latter, then you may be contemplating how to enhance your
organisation’s performance through the quality of its leadership.
The leadership challenges for organisations – particularly those operating
in a globally competitive market place – have continued to rise unabated during
the last decade.
New employment legislation, cultural change, the need to adopt best practice
and deliver results, have increased the range of skills and competencies which
leaders and managers are required to employ.
A number of recent studies show that the perception among many employees is
that the quality of leadership is falling short. One of the key challenges for
organisations in 2003 – and for HR in particular – must be to enhance the
quality of current and future leadership.
We have to proactively create leadership programmes for senior managers, or,
where they already exist, dispassionately review their effectiveness. It may be
necessary to start again.
Ask any member of a top management team whether they believe better
performance could be achieved from their staff and they will invariably say
Yet, when asked what proactive action is being taken by the organisation to
extract that superior performance through better leadership, the response will
The challenge for HR must be to tap into their pool of talent by creating
the environment, culture and opportunities that enable employees to reach their
full potential. An obvious but important prerequisite in achieving this is the
appropriate investment of resources in leadership development. A significant
effort and justification for securing the necessary resources are a must.
Effective leadership is about creating a great organisation capable of sustained
performance over many years, but developing world-class leaders is not a simple
There are many views of what the key ingredients to producing effective
leaders are. One only has to look at the array of books on leadership in any
airport lounge, and it soon becomes apparent there is no quick and easy answer.
When senior managers are asked to name the leaders they particularly admire,
well-known names such as Nelson Mandela and Sir Richard Branson are often
The common qualities that make these individuals stand out include the
ability to motivate people and inspire a common vision. Personal credibility,
drive, genuine interest in others, trust, communication and confidence, are all
important as well.
If these are some of the key traits of good leadership, the task for HR and
the organisation is to facilitate their practice.
Good leadership is not the exclusive domain of senior management. It can and
must equally apply to other managers across the whole business. Apart from
carrying out typical management responsibilities, they must also lead and
inspire their teams on a daily basis.
Equipping junior and middle managers as well as the more senior management
population, undoubtedly helps to create a common, seamless culture. In many organisations
with poor leadership it is often evident that there is a clash in styles, with
a variety of approaches co-existing at different levels.
A key challenge ahead for the HR community is not just about facilitating
better leadership in the organisation, but also demonstrating good leadership
qualities and setting an example. This does mean an extra responsibility for
HR, but it is no different from what the best have always done – leading from
the front. It is difficult to ask others to do what we are not.
The opportunity for HR to have a marked impact on organisational performance
is there for the taking, and leadership has to be near the top of the agenda in
By Saudagar Singh, HR director, npower