Stereotypes hampering diversity among leaders

Stereotypical attitudes are preventing organisations from appointing leaders
from a diverse range of backgrounds, according to research unveiled at ‘The
Challenge of Leadership’ conference this month.

Binna Kandola, managing partner at occupational pyschologists Pearn Kandola,
told delegates that research among senior managers showed that 80 per cent
talked about a male first when asked to describe a successful manager.

"The pervasiveness and power of stereotypes was coming through in the
descriptions of male and female performance," Kandola said.

Other speakers at the conference described systematic attempts to develop
employees for leadership roles.

Lucinda Charles-Jones, HR director of RAC Consumer, said its annual talent
review process seeks to identify good leaders by categorising and rating staff
as being stars, key players, in new roles or the wrong role, or ‘low gliders’ –
people who show limited ambition. Staff can join or leave the pool of high-potential
staff, called ‘hipos’, following each review.

She also described the talent pool of potential board members in Lex Vehicle
Leasing, part of the RAC. The business uses a variety of approaches to select
and develop new leaders, including business simulations, external leadership
experts, and real business projects supported by ‘development buddies’, other
managers who coach high-potential staff. Turnover among senior managers was
reduced from 25 per cent at the start of the programme, to 12 per cent.

Peter Wisniewski, HR director of Nike UK, told delegates that developing
effective leadership was the company’s solution to the challenge of its rapid

Nike has adapted its recruitment and internal appointments processes to
identify leaders with people management capabilities, rather than just
technical skills. It undertakes an HR planning process three times a year, led
by line managers.

By Noel O’Reilly

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