Do managers need leadership development too?


While the perception is that leaders are big-picture thinkers and visionaries, managers are the ones who "get things done," execute leadership direction and manage teams. However, the manager's role goes far beyond supervision.


According to Gallup, 70 percent of a team's engagement is influenced by managers. The traditional role of a boss as a command-and-control function no longer works for today's workforce who expect their manager to be more of a coach and mentor than a boss. The same research suggests that only one in three managers understand how their performance affects their opportunities to move to leadership roles, and just 8 percent strongly agree their performance reviews inspire them to improve, showing that developing managers into leaders is more important than ever.


Upskilling in a hybrid work setting


At the start of the year, there were 48,000,000 Google searches for “gaps in management skills + hybrid work”. What’s more, worldwide interest in that same query increased by four times between the announcement of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 and early 2022, and is now at peak popularity based on Google Trends.


Finding answers for how to close the remote and hybrid work management skills gaps is a topic of the highest interest, as it is an enduring challenge born from the pandemic and its restrictions. The pandemic and the resulting circumstances may have brought the need for transparency, trust, empathy and openness to the forefront, but they were always critical for effective leadership. However, what’s different now is how they are expressed and made visible in a hybrid setting. Communication in a hybrid team requires a different approach to communication depending on the location of the team at a given time, however, the key principles of good communication remain - employees need to have the information that they need, in a timely way, to allow them to successfully undertake their work.


A recent EY study of 3,500 leaders and managers across the UK, shows that almost three quarters believe that leadership was lacking throughout the pandemic, with specific challenges including empowering and motivating teams, problem-solving, empathy and emotional intelligence. To support this view, the World Economic Forum is currently pointing to an urgent need for leadership upskilling in digital fluency and change management to remain competitive and agile in the new hybrid working context.


Closing the leadership gap


The shift to remote work that occurred during the pandemic has created new business models and new ways of working. The pandemic forced leaders to reassess their ability to adapt to crisis and uncertainty, and very few were prepared to deal with the unprecedented shift that transformed the business landscape. To avoid being caught off guard, should another unprecedented crisis hit, 60 percent of employers are now expected to invest more in the training and tools necessary for hybrid work.


According to McKinsey, more companies are prioritising employee upskilling and LinkedIn research suggests that these initiatives are especially important to younger generations. Employees get often promoted to management positions because of their technical expertise or meeting their KPIs, not necessarily due to their people skills, which can lead to many challenges. However, with commitment and the right training, leadership skills can be developed and nurtured – because managers need these skills to lead their teams now and, in the future, when they lead the organisation.


Whilst many first-line managers receive training that prepares them for the role, not many managers of managers can say the same, due to the assumption that there is a little difference. But reserving high potential development for the top-level can negatively impact the organisation. On the other hand, making managers' key experiences and leadership development plan central to the overall strategy, will create opportunities and develop the next generation of leaders.


At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at simon@askacumen.com.