Do Australian leaders have what it takes?

Wednesday 8 June, 2016

Leadership coach Tony Curl, from Think and Grow Business, asks the question: do Australia leaders have what it takes?

This is a provocative question and one that is raised in the largest ever leadership survey, the Study of Australian Leadership, undertaken by the Centre of Workplace Leadership.

They surveyed almost 8000 individuals across 2703 organisations and 2561 workplaces. This comprehensive study represents the current status of Australian Leadership, a picture that details the significant challenges being faced by Australian businesses at all levels.

The comprehensive survey delivered results that were in many ways, not surprising. Tony Curl, attended the launch of the study recently held in Brisbane and supported by CCIQ.

“The key findings of the report highlighted the value that leadership plays in Australian business. The companies that embrace development of leaders shape superior results than other companies and the results confirm this,” he said.

“We face significant forces in Australia and strong leadership is required at all levels, if we are to drive the performance needed to compete on a global stage.”

The key findings of the report are very clear. It found that leadership matters. It matters in innovation; it matters for workplace performance; it matters for employee engagement and talent management.

It also highlighted the different ways that leadership matters at different levels of organisations.

“An example of this was the impact that frontline leaders have shaping the work experience and subsequent engagement of employees.”

Significantly, investment in leadership pays for businesses. It was shown that companies that invested in a wide range of leadership development have more capable and confident leaders, with a stronger belief in their ability to do the job, aligning strongly with better performance and importantly more innovation.

However, significant gaps and weaknesses provide cause for concern. In all, seven weakness were highlighted in the report.

“Disturbingly leadership is still seen as being underinvested, especially in frontline leadership positions. For every $10 spent on senior leadership development, just $1 is being spent on the frontline.

“Considering the impact our frontline leaders have on company performance and employee engagement, this is frightening,” he said.

The report also indicates that senior leadership is still dominated by older men from English-speaking backgrounds, bringing focus to diversity of leadership.

“Interestingly the gender mix at frontline level was pretty much an even split, but that certainly lessens as we move up the organisational chain.”

It came as no surprise that many Australian workplaces are underperforming, while others struggle to get the basics right. Basics of leadership are things as simple as the use of Key Performance Indicators and communicating them through to the customer facing staff members.

“How can teams hit desired results when they have little idea of what they are and how they can impact them?”

Many Australian leaders are not well-trained for their job. Leaders with formal qualifications were found in many of the well-performing companies.

Although formal qualifications are not everything, this finding indicates that the confidence and skills taken from formal qualifications improve the performance of the leader. And that is important if we are to fully embrace innovation.

We know innovation is needed for the country to remain competitive, yet a gap is highlighted with just 18 per cent of businesses reporting high levels of innovation.

“If we are to maintain a competitive global presence this must improve.”

So do Australian Leaders have what it takes?

“While the report highlights our leadership and organisational gaps, my belief is that we do have what it takes to face the challenges that we face.

“However, businesses that stick by a head-in-the-sand approach or continue to try and make old methods work, instead of embracing innovation will continue to struggle.

“The leaders that challenge themselves to grow, develop and support others in their organisation will give their organisations the best chances of significant performance lifts.

“Additionally, those leaders will themselves become a valuable resource themselves.”


Join Tony Curl from Think and Grow Business and David Thompson from Wilson HTM, who will provide further insights into Australian leaders and their performance at a special CCIQ breakfast event, The Anatomy of a Leader, on June 14.

David will highlight the ASX performance of well-led companies while Tony will simplify leadership and dissect a model that can be used by you, your team and your business, helping you to give structure to your leaders at all levels.

The breakfast event will be held at the Brisbane Golf Club, Tuesday June 14.

Register here

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