Leaders and managers need to be equipped better to lead through times of crisis new report finds

  • 73% of professionals from across the UK say company’s leadership has struggled to adapt during pandemic
  • Lack of softer skills such as empowering teams (36%) and empathy (31%) could impact workforce motivation and performance 
  • 81% of professionals expect to be negatively impacted by Covid-19 in some way

7 December 2020: Clearly 2020 has been an incredibly difficult time for many businesses thanks to COVID-19 and many businesses have fought for their very survival. Leaders and managers have truly been put to the test and, in some cases, their skills have found to be deficient in areas that could have enabled them to navigate this difficult period more effectively. That’s according to new research from ILM – a City & Guilds business and the UK’s leading provider of leadership qualifications – which finds that nearly three quarters of employees surveyed (73%) believe that some part of the company’s leadership has been lacking during the pandemic.

The research, which surveyed over 3,500 UK professionals on their experiences of management and leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, found that leaders and managers are most likely to fall short on softer skills, such as empowering and motivating teams (36%), and empathy and emotional intelligence (31%) – potentially impacting workforce motivation and ultimately, performance. With teams forced to make difficult decisions and work in new, different ways, problem solving (34%) and organisational skills (29%) are also key qualities identified by employees as lacking in their leaders and managers.

But, with 81% of respondents expecting their business to be negatively impacted by Covid-19, and more uncertainty expected in 2021, ILM is urging businesses to take urgent action to ensure they are better equipped to navigate future challenges.

David Phillips, Managing Director of City & Guilds and ILM, commented: “In times of crisis, strong leadership and management isn’t just important, it’s business critical. This year, firms have faced unprecedented circumstances and have had to make some very difficult decisions – putting their leadership and management skills to the test. But, as Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently made clear, this isn’t the end of the challenges that businesses will face over the next few years, so it’s important we act now to better equip our leaders and managers for the future.

“With further uncertainty and change on the horizon thanks to tough economic conditions and a messy Brexit, the businesses that succeed will be the ones that have leaders and managers who can guide their teams to respond, adapt and change to whatever the future throws at them. New ways of working necessitate new skills, and it’s incredibly important that senior executives ensure their whole leadership team is equipped with the skills they need – not only to navigate turbulent times, but to get the most out of individuals and teams too.”

The research identified that the skills that the UK’s employees and employers consider to be most important for managers and leaders are also the ones they believe their leaders need to build upon, demonstrating a clear lag in businesses’ leadership skills.

  • The most important skills for managers and leaders are considered to be:
    • People Management (68%)
    • Communication (48%)
    • Building relationships and interpersonal skills (48%)
  • And the skills that most respondents said their own managers and leaders need to improve on are:
    • People Management (45%)
    • Communication (39%)
    • Building relationships and interpersonal skills (38%)

Worryingly, despite this skills deficit, the research also found that many employers are failing to invest in and improve their teams’ leadership and management skills. 31% of professionals say that their organisation doesn’t have any measures in place to identify leadership and management potential in their staff. Meanwhile 16% say their company doesn’t invest in career development for leaders and managers and 17% of professionals don’t believe their organisation develops and identifies potential leaders and managers effectively.

Peter Coats Group Protection Academy Manager, Learning & Development Consultant, Legal and General, added: “If there’s one thing that we’ve realised this year it’s that the quality of relationship that you have with your line manager is the key to how you feel at work and the biggest driver of engagement. Never more important than when a crisis hits. At Legal & General Insurance we’ve recognised that equipping all of our managers to have the right conversations and build respectful, trusting, two-way relationships is more important now than ever.

“Our Leading with Emotional Intelligence Programme provides leaders with the opportunity to reflect on their own strengths and identify areas to work on. Running over seven months it covers the 5 key conversations that all leaders should be having and has at its heart our basic inter-personal humanity. Our approach is simple, if you build the right relationships with the people that work for you, it doesn’t matter when the next crisis hits - your team will be ready.”

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Leading through challenging times

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Our latest research reveals the need for leaders and managers to be better equipped to lead through times of crisis.

Read the full report