In preparation for this event, we have interviewed two of the speakers -Professor Maura Sheehan and Dr Kirsteen Grant from the International Centre for Management and Governance Research at Edinburgh Napier University – to seek their views on Leadership and Management…

What are the qualities of a good leader?

We could list a large number of qualities here! However, we believe that the key qualities surround the relational aspects of the leader, including trustworthiness, integrity, resilience, empathy, and emotional intelligence. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, in the aftermath of the Christchurch tragedy, has recently demonstrated these characteristics.

With your research, have you detected any skills gaps within Leadership and Management?

We are experiencing the “fourth industrial revolution (IR)” where robotics, artificial/enhanced intelligence, big data analytics are rapidly evolving. These ongoing changes are occurring within the broader context of the urgent need for sustainability both within the context of climate change and the internal organisational environment, particularly relating to the business need for financially sustainable organisations.

Yet, the majority of leadership models are dominated by a neoliberal, private sector, western and male-dominated paradigms that emerged in the US during the 1970s which are simply no longer fit for purpose. It is critical that leadership models reflect the “new realities”, especially the urgent need for sustainability and adapting leadership models to reflect non-Western value systems and one that embraces diversity and inclusivity.

If so, what are these? Do they span across sectors or is there a particular sector that suffers from these skills gaps?

These gaps exist across all sectors. Business schools have contributed to this leadership void by continuing to teach students outdated models of leadership and developing leadership competencies that do not reflect current realities. Business schools need to re-position themselves as a source of “good” by engaging with a much wider group of stakeholders and ensuring all graduates are capable of engaging with and implementing practices that reflect the “triple bottom line” – people, profits and planet.

Graduates should also be equipped to enable thinking, reflection and ‘self-conversation’ of leadership and importantly leading. Understanding future (and sometimes rapidly changing) organisational contextual and leadership needs are key challenges for many organisations, e.g. a great deal of future planning is based on current needs. This also highlights the importance of change leadership and leaders’ becoming more comfortable with ambiguity. Brexit is a good example of changing the context for many organisations.

What impact can deficiencies in L&M skills have on an organisation and its employees?

Evidence shows that poor leadership adversely impacts the complex leader-member exchanges (LMX) which, in turn, contributes to breaches in employees’ psychological contracts. Such breaches reduce employees’ commitment, motivation and job satisfaction levels, all of which are associated with reduced organisational performance, including higher staff turnover and thus a loss of talent. Therefore, organisational sustainability is contingent upon good leaders and leadership approaches.

What are the best ways of tackling L&M deficiencies?

First, is to recognise that new non-neoliberal leadership paradigms are needed to reflect the realities of the world in which we operate currently and ensuring that there is indeed a world left for the next generation of children to live. In practice, this will require challenging the status quo via mentoring, role modelling, and up-skilling, especially skills to ensure that the triple bottom line ethos can be embedded.

Role-modelling is critical to ensure greater representation of women and other under-represented groups which is necessary to underpin the new leadership paradigms, sustainability and ensuring business engages with a much wider group of stakeholders. This “connected” or stakeholder approach to leadership assists in devolving, or distributing, both formal and informal leadership throughout an organisation in an inclusive manner.

What would you recommend organisations do to develop leaders of the future?

Current models of leadership need to be re-framed. A social movement approach to business and leadership is needed to ensure that the valuable resources of businesses are leveraged as a source of good, sustainability and inclusivity. Universities, perhaps especially, business schools are pivotal in creating shared space to bring stakeholders together and to be a catalyst for the generation of new models of leadership and to contribute to the sustainability of people, profit and the planet.

Coaching and mentoring programmes, both within and across organisations, can be excellent, and cost-effective, methods of developing current and future leaders inclusively. Public sector organisations, in particular, are increasingly required to work collaboratively and in more integrated ways, e.g. health and social care integration. Therefore, leadership development needs to take account of this.


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