A horse drinking water

A boss can lead a horse to water, but a leader can make it drink. 

From a recruiter’s perspective, one of the most common reasons people come to us to seek a new role is because they don’t like their boss. That reason is often higher up the list than salary, brand recognition, status or any other reason at the moment. 

So, it stands to reason that at least some of the employees who leave your business are doing it because of the leadership and management style that some of your bosses have. But it is a balance between listening to genuine concerns about leadership and management, and filtering out sour grapes and the sound of personal axes being ground. 

So how do you assess what your company’s leadership and management style is really like? It can be a delicate task and requires subjectivity and objectivity to work together in all evaluations, but here are some ideas to get you started; 

  • Look at a list of all your company’s management at each level. Do they complement each other or are they all cut from the same cloth? One size does not fit all when it comes to managing people, so having a diverse management structure is critical. That will offer up a broader set of opinions and styles that you can play around with to ensure that the most appropriate managers are in charge of the most likely people to respond to that particular style of leadership. 
  • Do all of your managers and leaders actually want to manage and lead? Sometimes companies promote strong employees into management roles when in actual fact those employees are strong precisely because they do not manage and are left to get on with their own job. They can still be leaders of course, but management responsibilities may sit uncomfortably with them, and their high personal expectations may not translate into an inclusive and positive management style.  
  • Do you have a consistent company-wide management training and development programme that you put all new and existing managers through? Do they all understand the wider company vision and how to articulate this down the lines? Remember, at a management or leadership level it’s becomes more than just technical proficiency or ability to achieve targets. It is about emotional intelligence, empathy, patience, knowing when to make the hard decisions or when to step back and empower others. Not every manager in waiting will possess those traits, so putting them through a thorough development programme with a diverse peer group will help to embed those behaviours confidently before they are let loose on their teams. 
  • Is there a constant review system in place for all management? Ideally a 360 degrees review process so that you can get the full picture from their teams and not just from their personal performance. Do you allow for full and frank feedback on this part of their role? Even if they are managing high performing teams, it doesn’t mean they are leading them effectively, and ignoring any issues in reviews or feedback forums will only come back to bite you if your highly performing teams start leaving for your competitors.  
  • Are there any repeat offenders? Do you have managers who constantly see a turnover of staff in their teams? If so, you may need to make the hard decision to move that manager out of a leadership role – or at least reinforce them with management training – before you lose more good employees.  

If you can get the right balance in your management and leadership structures, then even if employees do move on, they will move on with positive memories of how they were lead and developed, and that will act as a very positive brand voice in the market for your company and for future employees. Conversely, if word gets out that there are nightmare managers in the structure, you may see a fall in offers being accepted and a failure to attract the top talent that you really need.