Gary Ince, chief executive of the recently-formed Institute of Leadership
and Management, sets out his agenda for expanding skills
I am determined the ILM will play a key role in providing skills upon which
the UK’s social and economic well-being depends, and I am committed to
In my opinion, the UK has concentrated too much of its attention on building
management capability and not enough on building leadership capability over the
last 20 years.
The focus of business education in the UK has been on management and the
processes involved. The proliferation of management systems is testament to
this. Tools such as TQM and ISO, for example, are all designed to ensure that
we can manage our organisations and do things consistently.
As a result, the UK has become a nation of managers and we have become
accomplished at consistently sticking to systems and repeating processes. Did
you know there are more ISO registered companies in the UK than anywhere else
in the world?
Meanwhile, other countries have focused their attention on building
leadership. Leadership is about encapsulating strategy, vision, risk-taking,
setting direction and determining how an organisation should move forward.
Management simply implements this strategy over and over again and is behind
the failure of many UK companies. Short-termism has resulted in many UK public
companies embarking upon a strategy only to reverse out at the first set-back.
If public companies are to compete on the world stage, they need to embrace
leadership and ensure sufficient resources are invested into building their
leadership capability. That will ensure they do the right thing, and not simply
‘do it right’. Marconi, for example, implemented its strategy perfectly, which
sounds fine, except in retrospect it seems its strategy was flawed from the
The UK needs to understand the distinction between ‘manager’ and ‘leader’. A
leader tends to be the visionary who ensures the organisation is moving in the
right direction, while the manager is the individual who implements that
strategy and monitors the performance.
In the US, Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus published a book called Leaders,
which became known for the quote: "Managers do things right and leaders do
the right thing". We appear to be successful at this in the UK. The recent
corporate disasters to befall FTSE100 companies are testament to this – we are
great at really implementing a strategy but the strategy is not thought through
from the outset.
In addition to the above, the UK has focused too much on building and
supporting leaders and managers at the top of the organisational tree. Too
little attention has been paid to building leadership and management capability
throughout the organisation.
Current management structures and 21st century culture means there is a
greater need for leadership throughout an organisation, from the shop-floor to
the managing director. Through better education, people ask ‘why?’ and don’t
just do. Leadership alone can answer the ‘why?’.
Numerous research studies have provided empirical evidence as to these
thoughts. Our own survey among workers, commissioned from Business Partners UK,
indicated that 60 per cent of employees were unhappy with the state of
leadership in their own organisation.
People in the UK are unhappy at the way they are led and our task is not
just to improve leadership at the top but to ensure the message percolates
throughout the management tree of any organisation.
Building leadership capability is one of ILM’s key goals. We aim to unlock
people’s potential to be managers and leaders, and ensure managers at all
levels, in every sector, can develop skills to run their businesses
successfully and further their careers.
The fact the UK lags behind its international competitors in so many
industries can partly be attributed to the lack of leadership.
It is imperative for our future prosperity that the UK focuses its attention
upon building its leadership capability to ensure the future prosperity of the
country rather than simply improving management.