HR must help build new generation of ethical leaders, says CIPD

HR must help build new generation of ethical leaders, says CIPD


HR must help to build a new generation of ethical, self-aware leaders, according to new research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Falling levels of trust as a result of the financial crisis, diminishing respect for political figures and controversy over the high levels of City bonuses have all influenced how we view leaders and what we expect of them, said the Perspectives on Leadership in 2012 report.

The report also stressed that the days of what it calls “sheep-dip” management training are over – referring to a tendency in organisations to send all managers through the same leadership programmes – if a new set of evolved leadership qualities is to emerge.

Leadership strands

The report identified three emerging strands of leadership theory that will become increasingly important as new leaders are trained and devleoped. These are: relational leadership (how the leader works with direct reports and the wider team); values-based leadership (their sense of self and how ethically they operate); and contextual leadership (the environment and the system in which they operate).

The report follows the CIPD’s previous leadership insight research in 2008. It emphasises the importance of leaders in 2012 that are self-aware and display honesty and integrity, as well as hold strong ethical and moral principles. Other insights included evidence that if a manager regards themselves as a leader, they are more likely to behave like one, and the importance of finding out what motivates people to be leaders.

The CIPD’s report coincided with another piece of research released today by recruitment company Reed, looking at what behaviours staff value in their managers. Reed’s survey discovered that almost half (47%) of workers are given the freedom to get on with work uninterrupted, and the style most valued in a manager (by 30% of respondents) was fairness – ie someone who is even-handed and just in dealing with their team. Almost two-thirds (65%) described their manager as “good”, and Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson tops the list of famous people that respondents would like to be managed by.

HR plays a crucial role

HR’s role will be crucial in establishing the modern leadership agenda, stressed the CIPD’s CEO Peter Cheese, who said: “Today’s leaders need to be self-aware, have a strong moral compass and understand that their behaviour is key to whether an organisation’s values are worth more than a passing reference in the annual report or on the company intranet.”

He added: “In order to build this type of leadership capability, the role of HR is fundamental. HR needs to ensure that how managers are recruited, managed, trained and promoted supports the development of required leadership skills and behaviours. HR must ensure that leadership development frameworks are aligned with organisations’ core purpose and values, and understand how to deploy a range of ongoing learning interventions that actually lead to sustained behaviour change. The days of sheep-dip manager training are over.”

The report suggested that HR can play a part in building these qualities by doing the following:

  • Helping to define good leadership – set out common expectations of leaders and their behaviours. Clarify this so everyone in the organisation understands and leadership does not just rest with a small number of identified leaders.
  • Developing leaders’ and followers’ skills – understand where any leadership deficits lie, for example through 360-degree feedback.
  • Creating systems and processes that support good leadership – HR systems such as recruitment, promotion and appraisal can all embed a culture of good leadership
  • Creating the conditions in which the value of leadership is recognised – HR must consider carefully how to articulate the business case for leadership development; top-level buy-in is crucial.

The CIPD concluded that the leadership agenda will represent an enormous opportunity for HR professionals: “If HR can play its role well, take a dynamic evidence-based approach and ensure organisations have the leadership they need to survive and thrive, it will secure its role as a vital function for organisational success.”

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