The call is for greater trust in leadership but can it be delivered? New research shows that leaders are struggling so what is needed?

This has been a well-discussed topic in recent years with the majority lacking trust in their leadership teams. Research has indicated this figure to lie anywhere between 55-75% within most companies. One can argue over the reasons for the erosion in trust but there is a growing desire for trust to be restored.

One can question whether this above statistic is true but then ask why:
Only 12.5% of employees are engaged in their work
The average young person will only stay in their job for 1.75 years
61% believe that their companies have tick-box policies for their approach to CSR and sustainability with little intention in investing in the real actions that are desired.

It all indicates that something is wrong and trust is a glue that does act as a foundation to culture and engagement. Even the FT – the bible of the City – has called for a change in the approach of the business.

The counter-argument is that the behaviours of twenty years ago would simply not be acceptable today. It is easy to critique leaders but the whole bar has been raised and given this, it is understandable that many are falling short as the structures are not in place to prepare new leaders. Many turn to blaming millennials ignoring the fact that the level required has changed and the ground has not been prepared.

The real issue is that the majority of leaders are simply not up to the task and need both greater preparation and support. That is the dynamic that needs to change. UK business leaders are struggling to cope with the pressures of a rapidly changing world. Increased competition, political uncertainty and facing greater scrutiny are all making it harder for many leaders – and as a result, the behaviours of many leaders have arguably fallen beneath the level desired.

The real issue is that the majority of leaders are simply not up to the task and need both greater preparation and support. That is the dynamic that needs to change. UK business leaders are struggling to cope with the pressures of a rapidly changing world. Increased competition, political uncertainty and facing greater scrutiny are all making it harder for many leaders – and as a result, the behaviours of many leaders have arguably fallen beneath the level desired.

A recent study of 1,000 workplaces – published in Thinking on your feet, a report by the commercial arm of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, RADA Business –  has found that 81% of senior leaders said they were often placed in situations where they found it difficult to remain calm.

More than a third (37%) of senior managers, directors and C-Suite said that high-pressure scenarios made it harder to prepare and express their thoughts.

When asked what situations affected their ability to relax and act authentically, 31% of business leaders admitted that board meetings with very senior people was a leading factor. Video conference calls (30%) was found to be one of the second biggest causes of nervousness faced in the workplace, followed by training sessions (30%).

Small group meetings (27%) was also a big issue hindering leaders’ abilities to think clearly and act authentically, with telephone conference calls appearing next on the list (27%).

The study also reveals that leaders struggle to exhibit an air of calm when they feel under pressure, with not maintaining eye contact (30%) slouching (25%), and physically shaking (21%) being identified as the most common physical side effects.

Maintaining leadership performance through times of uncertainty demands a greater need to remain present, to align your physical, emotional and intellectual state. This is particularly challenging in the moment when you find yourself needing to think on your feet.

Under pressure, leaders tend to focus on the content of what they’re saying, losing their personal connection with others, as well as an awareness of how they’re coming across. In the eyes of their audience, they can lose credibility by speeding up their breathing and appearing tense, with no vocal presence – showing a lack of confidence.

This is quite a strange picture of leadership. It is certainly a long way from the levels of leadership that is desired by employees and stakeholders. So what do we do?

I think most will agree that the above picture is below expectation so it is clear that there is a need for a number of changes:

Greater work in the development of emerging leaders so that they are able to handle to pressures of the role. A CEO has to be able to lead effectively and if this is not happening, change needs to happen:

Greater work in the development of emerging leaders so that they are able to handle to pressures of the role. A CEO has to be able to lead effectively and if this is not happening, change needs to happen.

A different structure to support and enable CEOs? The board structure has long bee the same and yet the world has changed beyond measure. Business today has to possess both, a strong business strategy and approach to working with communities and in sustainability. More is being asked so structures and process of leadership so it needs to change.

A greater understanding of the pressure on business performance 

Business needs to be enabled to invest back into its people and structures.

It is clear that change is needed but it is more complicated that it may appear.There is a need for new thinking and greater understanding.