Australian managers don't have what it takes to be leaders

Ian Gavan/Getty Images for O2

Australian businesses are making do with mediocre senior executives because they can’t find enough with the right skills to motivate and get the best from staff.

Most just don’t have what it takes to be leaders, according to a survey by LinkedIn of human resource managers.

Critical soft skills are missing or under-developed: empathy, problem solving and creativity, and fostering collaboration and innovation.

The LinkedIn study found that 69% of human resources decision-makers in Australia and New Zealand say that it’s difficult to fill leadership positions.

And it’s not getting much better with 63% pessimistic about the hiring outlook for leaders over the next five years.

“They don’t have the skills,” LinkedIn says in its study, Leadership Talent Challenges in Australia and New Zealand.

Source: LinkedIn

“The number one reason organisations find it hard to recruit leaders is the candidate’s lack of soft skills and leadership competencies. The difficulty reflects the complexity of modern leadership roles.”

The stakes are high. Up to a quarter of a company’s performance can be attributed to the efforts of the CEO, according to the latest research.

The analysis classified leaders as LinkedIn members who are either directors, vice presidents, chief executive officers, partners or owners with more than than 10 years experience and employed at companies with more than 500 members.

Anthony Mitchell, co-founder and chairman of strategic leadership firm, Bendelta, says only a small proportion of current business leaders have what it takes.

“Today’s executive roles require increasingly sophisticated skills around fostering innovation and collaboration,” he told Business Insider.

“With the death of the command-and-control age, leaders cannot expect superior performance through the militaristic exercise of authority.

“The winners in today’s business world are fully engaging and inspiring their people, while the losers are not. It’s that simple.”

The LinkedIn survey found that the lack of leadership is impacting on employee engagement, innovation and collaboration with 42% saying it has had a detrimental impact on innovation in their organisation.

Mitchell says companies are accepting leaders with weak skills.

“Every mediocre leader they promote or leave in their role shows their willingness to accept second best,” he says.

“The good news is that surveys like this show that organisations are reaching breaking point on their tolerance for mediocrity.

Source: LinkedIn

“They are confronting the reality that senior executives without the requisite soft skills and leadership competencies will kill their business, quickly or slowly.”

Mitchell says companies have to act more like sports teams, cutting players who don’t have a commitment to excellence and investing in development methods to improve soft skills and leadership competencies.

“These methods exist but the problem is that companies would rather throw money at a sheep dip program or a course at a famous university, than do what it takes to build leadership mastery and shift behaviour,” he says.

“To do this requires a range of learning methods, including intensive development outside of one’s comfort zone with high-quality, rapid feedback from experts.”

He has clients who’ve made that kind of commitment and the difference in results is a quantum leap.

“These companies are already leaving the others behind,” he says.

LinkedIn surveyed 352 human resources decision-makers from large companies in the Asia Pacific region, 84 of them based in Australia or New Zealand.

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