From education to employment

Elevating Leadership: The Role of Strong Management in Today’s Global Landscape

Anthony Painter exclusive

Anthony Painter emphasises the importance of effective management in a global context, noting the UK’s leadership challenges compared to countries like the US, Japan, and Germany. It highlights the impact of quality management on productivity and the need for better training and investment in leadership skills for future growth and sustainability. 

International Leadership Week is an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on leadership and management excellence in the UK and beyond, acknowledging both successes and identifying areas for improvement. According to the World Management Survey of Leadership rankings, Britain falls behind a select group of countries led by the United States, alongside Japan, Germany, Sweden and Canada. The comparison of management practices found that more than half of the productivity gap between the UK and the US can be attributed to poor management.

Lessons from Top-Ranking Countries

A recent report from my organisation, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), explores examples of what is working around the world and draws valuable lessons from top-ranking countries.

South Korea: Confucianism and Long-Termism

In South Korea, for example, management practices are rooted in Confucianism, they foster lifelong employment, long-termism, and community. These practices create a culture of stability and commitment and reassures employers that when they invest in employee education and training, their investment will be rewarded through an employee’s long tenure with the firm.

Germany: Dual Education System and SMEs

In Germany, that strong focus on long-termism is embedded within family-owned SMEs and a successful dual education system contributes to a highly skilled workforce. This system, blending classroom learning with practical apprenticeships, is likely to have improved management practices and is recognised internationally for its effectiveness. Notably, 83% of apprentices in Germany train within SMEs, which is crucial for maintaining low youth unemployment and promoting economic stability.

America: Emphasis on Proven Management Skills

In America, businesses place a higher premium on proven management skills when hiring for leadership positions. Our analysis found that employers are 10% more likely than their UK counterparts to require candidates applying for management roles to already have proven management skills. If the UK were to achieve similar levels of competence over the next generation, it would require an additional 840,000 trained managers.

The UK’s Management Skills Gap

In contrast, management skills appear to be undervalued in the UK compared to other countries. Our research conducted in partnership with YouGov found that 82% of managers are ‘accidental managers’, which represents 6.9 million managers in the UK who have not had any formal training when given the job. This speaks to a culture where management capability is not sufficiently prioritised, reflecting gaps in policy framework, institutions, in government and across the wider economy.

The Critical Importance of Effective Management

Managing teams effectively is no small feat. It involves keeping teams motivated, retaining valuable talent, and recruiting from diverse and skilled pools, all while remaining agile to respond to market dynamics and meet your strategic objectives. Management and leadership skills are far from generic; they encompass a specific skill set that directly correlates with tangible growth outcomes.

This is perhaps the most important aspect of management. It’s a critical factor in production, worker well-being and productivity, and the quality of public services. In the years ahead, the UK will have to respond to pressing global challenges. The transition to a greener economy will not only require technical expertise but also inspirational leaders who can galvanise communities and businesses towards sustainable practices, fostering that much-needed collective commitment. Additionally, the rise of smarter technologies is changing the business landscape, and managers will be responsible for seeing the widespread adoption of AI and new technologies in their organisations.

The Path Forward: Education and Training

A crucial element in the solution to all these stresses is more capable, robust and resilient management and leadership. These leadership qualities can be cultivated and developed through education and training.

This year’s ILW theme recognises the importance of collaboration and creating inclusive environments where everyone’s voice is heard and valued. As we look ahead, thousands of UK businesses are primed to reap the benefits of leaders who can bring people together to achieve a common purpose. Indeed, the UK’s path to growth depends on it.

By Anthony Painter, Director of Policy and External Affairs, CMI

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  1. So we’re not talking, like, Fujitsu, Post Office, BBC, SNP, Tory Party,
    Tavistock Institute, Climate Change Committee or Rwanda Bill here?

    Neil Richardson