Employers are failing to develop the leadership needed to address challenges such as climate change and wealth inequality, according to research from the University of Cambridge.
The Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership (CISL) said businesses should motivate future leaders with a purpose that links commercial success with delivering positive outcomes for society.
According to its Rewiring leadership: the future we want, the leadership we need report, HR teams could help meet this requirement through training and incentivising their staff.
CISL has developed a framework – the Cambridge Impact Leadership Model – to help organisations inspire future leaders to drive social and environmental change.
It said employers needed to develop leaders at all levels of their businesses and make the most out of individual strengths.
CISL’s executive director for education, Lindsay Hooper, said that while many organisations recognised that future leaders will need to drive forward wider societal changes, employers were not equipping their staff to do so.
She said: “For businesses to be successful in reconciling sustainability with profitability, we will need to see a significant shift in the development of leadership capacity. That means new collaborations spanning HR, L&D, sustainability and executive teams, and with an investment in leadership capacity right up to board level.
“Effective leaders for the future will be motivated by a purpose that aligns commercial success with delivering positive outcomes for society.
“Many businesses recognise this and understand the need to respond to and, where possible, shape the changing context in which they operate.”
The report claimed that developing a leadership strategy did not simply mean “adding a one size fits all” briefing module into an existing learning and development programme. Instead, it said employers should consider gaps in knowledge, values, attitudes and capabilities.
Desray Clark, head of leadership development at mining company Anglo American, said leadership development should be offered to all employees to help achieve the company’s future targets.
“We have learnt that this is the only way to ensure that we deliver against our purpose. In the past, like many organisations, we reserved leadership development for select senior leaders who would return from their training, ready to implement what they had learnt – but the system was not ready for them,” she said.