Lay the ground for a leadership development academy

One of our aspirations is to lay the ground for a leadership development academy where industry and sports together really inspire the young

By Chris Sheppardson, Managing Director, EP

Despite all I often hear, there is a stark reality that many of the those entering the workplace are just struggling with the pressures and demands being placed upon them and at the same time, there are many boards asking why there appears to be a lack of talent breaking through into leadership roles.

We have debated this long and hard during the course of this year and there is abundance of differing perspectives being put forward as to why this appears to be a growing issue. This includes:

  • The young lack the mental robustness of previous generations to handle the stresses and pressures of work.
  • Companies create their own barriers to talent breaking through including increased process and compliance that drains talent of initiative and fight to create change.
  • Social media has made the psychology of many more defensive, negative and safe.
  • The educational system does not prepare the young for the workplace as it is once did.
  • There are so many distractions that take the focus away from what needs to be achieved.
  • Companies are simply more pressurised environments and no longer breeding grounds for leaders to emerge.

There is validity in all the above arguments but regardless of the above, there are less that are brave and open in their behaviours. I recall one senior CEO from a corporate who only last year telling me that he felt that the corporate structure drained all of his entrepreneurial thinking and spirit from him so that he was happy to leave corporate world – so imagine how it must be for the young.

There is little to be gained from complaining – we just need to get back to investing in the psychological development of young leaders and this is where the sports piece plays a role as sporting players know that to fulfil their dreams they are accountable and responsible but moreover need to work hard and be brave in order to achieve their goals.

“The Spurs players spoke of their manager’s stressing that success will come from a combination of hard work, passion and belief.”

Wouldn’t it be helpful if we could transfer some of this mind-set of belief and hard work into many of those developing in the workplace? It can be done and relatively easily and at relative little cost. It just requires a desire and appetite for change to the present status quo.

Last week after the Spurs match where they drew against Barcelona, the Spurs players spoke of their manager’s stressing that success will come from a combination of hard work, passion and belief. Are not these the qualities that we seek in young developing leaders – a passion for the work, a belief in their own talent and voice and a hard work ethic?

Gareth Southgate, the England football manager, spoke that many previous England teams failed as there was a negative mind-set that restrained players from being brave and playing with a freedom that does create the world-class. Isn’t this again a message that would resonate with many in work?

The world and the workplace has changed and we are not simply going to change how companies behave but we can do more to help talent flourish – but we do need to think differently? We do need to be prepared to just take a gamble and do the unexpected so that we can help see the next generations break through.

There are those that will say that leaders will always break through regardless but most senior industry dinners or events that I go to and many of the audience have the same for many a year. In many ways this is reassuring but as with all things there needs to be balance.

“Maybe but there are many examples in sport where the British have underachieved because the structure and environment did not encourage world class behaviours and play.”

Do leaders emerge regardless of the environment? Maybe but there are many examples in sport where the British have underachieved because the structure and environment did not encourage world class behaviours and play. It is no different in business.

Hospitality today is a world class industry but facing pressures. UK Sport too today is also world class and the two can work together to create a new framework that inspires, encourages and engages great young talent to be brave and to express themselves with a freedom that the builds strength.