UK workplaces at risk of “contagious leadership"

74% of UK professionals mirror the leadership styles of their colleagues

The best and worst leadership traits spread contagiously through a business, with professionals’ behaviours most heavily influenced by the people they work with most frequently

New research on the nation’s workforce from ILM, the UK’s leading specialist provider of leadership qualifications, revealed that workplace behaviours are highly infectious, with 74% of professionals having actively emulated attributes seen in their colleagues. Some of the most contagious traits are also the most critical to get right, including communication, copied by a fifth (18%) of workers, problem solving (9%), and customer service (10%). 

Workers imitate colleagues for different reasons depending on the infecting behaviour. For example, three quarters (74%) of people who copy the humour of their colleagues think it will help them work better with colleagues, a third (29%) who emulate delegation and organisation skills do so to get promoted or receive a pay rise, whilst 41% of people who imitate the creativity, inspiration or innovation of others are aiming to improve productivity. Worryingly, people are most likely to mimic what they’ve seen in others in risky or stressful situations, whether that’s an unfamiliar or difficult professional position (50%) or when something goes wrong at work (32%).

Surprisingly, people are not influenced by traditional hierarchies when it comes to who they emulate. Almost half (49%) of respondents revealed they replicate behaviours from people across their organisation regardless of their age, and a similar number (46%) say they copy behaviours from people of all levels of seniority.  

John Yates, Group Director at ILM, commented on the findings, “People are looking to their colleagues to demonstrate how they can work effectively, particularly when it comes to facing up to challenges in the workplace. Whilst it’s inspiring to see that professionals are motivated by those around them, it can also be dangerous, as people indiscriminately adopt the behaviours of others regardless of experience or expertise.” 

Despite the prevalence of UK workers learning by example from their colleagues, the research found that most employees (58%) would prefer more formal training and development when it comes to acquiring new skills and capabilities.  

“When properly managed, emulation can be a highly valuable way for people to learn. However, organisations should not rely on contagion to upskill employees; with bad habits as likely to spread as good, it is vital that employees at every level of an organisation understand, develop and role model positive leadership skills. By utilising more formal training systems that employees value so highly, businesses can feel confident that their employees will be embodying and transferring to others the skills they really need for success.”

 

Notes to editors

For more information, contact Emma Popham
ilmteam@firstlightpr.com
0203 434 4302

Laura Mountain, Communications Manager at ILM
Laura.Mountain@i-l-m.com

020 7294 3062

About ILM

ILM is the leading specialist provider of leadership qualifications in the UK. Over 70,000 ILM qualifications are awarded each year and in the past year alone, ILM has delivered over 14,000 management apprenticeships.

Over one million people hold an ILM qualification and the organisation is dedicated to continuously improving leadership, management and coaching skills - both in the UK and internationally – ensuring businesses and individuals are equipped for the working world now and in the future.

ILM develops qualifications, accredits and assesses training, and provides quality training materials to ensure continual learning development. ILM is a City & Guilds Group Business. All ILM qualifications are awarded by The City and Guilds of London Institute, which was founded in 1878 and is incorporated by Royal Charter.

@ILM_UK 
www.i-l-m.com

About the research

ILM surveyed 2,000 UK employees in full and part-time work. The research was conducted by Censuswide in June 2017.

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"Contagious Leadership" rife in the UK workplace

Contagion

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