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Transformational leadership

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Every day, organisations up and down the UK experience obstacles, challenges and setbacks. Unfortunately, these occurrences reflect the nature of business in 2018; we are constantly waking up to fire-fight problems that weren’t even on our radar when we went to sleep. 

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In many workplaces, these small set backs are exacerbated by the presence of a quality leadership vacuum, turning small setbacks into major hurdles. The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) named this poor leadership phenomenon as a national ‘accidental manager’ complex, where an individual who has been promoted based on their performance in a particular business area, but who remains under-trained in people management.

The CMI’s research suggests that there are currently 2.4 million such managers operating across the UK labour market. Our own research estimates that this phenomenon, coupled with other poor-management practices could be costing the UK economy as much as £84 billion every year.

These statistics are startling in the extent to which they reveal a prevalent lack of faith between employees and organisation leaders. They chime with the results of Investors in People’s Job Exodus 2018 report- published earlier this year- which suggested that 49% of people considering a new job in 2018 were doing so as a result of poor management.

Further recent research suggests that just a quarter of UK workers respect their senior leadership team, while 45% do not believe that the leader of their business knows how to improve productivity. It is my contention that investing in good leadership development programmes is one of the most vital tactics in ensuring that employees are satisfied and happy. Productivity cannot flourish unless these conditions are met.

The Investors In People Story

At Investors in People (IIP), we worked closely with high-performance management expert, Professor Andre De Waal to develop our most recent IIP Standard, denoting the nine key indicators necessary to cultivate an outperforming workplace culture. The first of these indicators is Leading and Inspiring, a pillar of good practice designed to encourage leaders to inspire and motivate their people by being as open and collaborative as possible.

Having set the scene, it’s abundantly clear that leadership has the power to make or break the success of an organisation. I think that the best way to appreciate what good leadership looks like in practice is to explore an example of an IIP Platinum accredited organisation, Sevenoaks District Council, which has truly transformed its business performance through innovative leadership.

Sevenoaks District Council (SDC)

Nestled between London and the Kent coast sits Sevenoaks, an affluent town with a population of just under thirty thousand residents. In 2016, the district council responsible for running the public services of this district became the first IIP Platinum accredited organisation in the South East, largely due to the innovative approach of new CEO, Dr Pav Ramewal, an expert in empowering change management.

When Dr Pav took the reins at SDC, the main challenges he inherited were those facing all district councils across England; major funding cuts. He was faced with a reduction to his base budget of 35% and tasked with reducing headcount by 41% over 10 years; a significant challenge for any business leader wanting to keep employees engaged and motivated.

One of Dr Pav’s first actions was to implement a ‘no blame-game’ culture, where employees were empowered to make their own decisions within the parameters of their role. This policy was rolled out across all teams to maximise its potential to create a new culture at SDC. Not only was the nature of this policy integral to Dr Pav’s strategy, but so too was his dedication to living the value himself, ultimately taking responsibility for the decisions that employees make whilst embracing the additional empowerment he had given. Part of SDC’s Platinum performance comes down to Pav’s dedication to setting the example for the rest of his team to follow; his dedication to living the values he instils is what makes his leadership so transformative.

In addition to empowering the SDC team with their decision-making, Pav also understood the importance of succession planning and training up the organisation’s leaders of tomorrow. He initiated a Leadership Masterclass programme which comprises several bite-size modules on everything from emotional intelligence to ‘harder’ operational management and financial skills.

The outcomes of these strategies are manifold, and evidence the success of how Dr Pav and the rest of the SDC team have transformed the business into the only self-sufficient district council in England. Beyond this significant achievement, SDC has an unprecedented confidence score in its senior leadership team of 98%, compared to the national average of just over a quarter. Lastly, in the same period that SDC was delivered budget cuts of 35%, it achieved a 35% increase in productivity. These figures demonstrate the value of the journey embarked upon by Dr Pav, where he chose to utilise his leadership as a tool to transform the fortunes of SDC.

In my opinion, the Sevenoaks District Council success story is down to the transformational power of inspiring leadership.

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