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Research Report:

Real-life leaders: closing the knowing-doing gap

Resource summary

Published: September 2013

Despite a wealth of academic and practitioner literature on management and leadership styles, and the abundance of leadership and management theories, in practice leadership and management capability is still a major concern for organisations. The day-to-day behaviours corresponding to leadership skills and competencies expected by employers are poorly defined and therefore rarely measured by organisations.

However, the purpose of this report is not to explore leadership and management definitions, but to open a debate on the barriers preventing organisations from getting closer to the desired state of effective leadership, and to help employers – and in particular those responsible for talent strategy, learning and development in an organisation – to bridge the gap between simply understanding what leadership is and ‘doing’ it in practice.

" ... employers are still some way from understanding the reasons for not seeing better leaders in
day-to-day practice. To get ahead with that task, organisations need to take a step back and consider
how the desired outcomes of leadership training might be impacted by the organisational systems,
processes and culture, and develop practical solutions to bridging leadership rhetoric and reality."

The report also provides recommendations for the HR function to adopt a systemic approach to leadership and management development, by identifying the leadership definition appropriate for the organisational context, and to ensure consistent adherence to that definition through the performance management systems, organisational design, and organisational systems and processes, which can all impact the potential for management training to translate into real-life leadership practice. 

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Where are the leaders?
  • How does the context matter?
  • Are managers there to deliver or to care?
  • Is there a difference between understanding leadership and doing it?
  • Is HR adequately responding to the leadership and management challenge?
  • Conclusion

Read the press release

Find out more about our leadership project

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