23/05/2002

Companies urged to examine leadership talent strategies

According to search and selection specialists, Huntswood, many companies are adopting ineffective strategies when it comes to the war for leadership talent.

Speaking at the recent Consultancy Forum held in London, Managing Consultant at Huntswood, Jon Tait, claimed that "all too often companies falsely equate a strong leadership function with a high-profile, heroic figurehead."

This results in resources and effort being devoted to attracting and retaining this one individual at the expense of developing a strong leadership team, which would be more effective.

Mr Tait said: "When we think about strong, effective leadership, most of us think of one charismatic individual heading up the company and leading by example. However, in reality, relying solely on one high-profile figurehead is an outdated and risky strategy. Having one leader puts the company in a very vulnerable position, as the loss of this key player can have an enormous knock-on effect on the rest of the firm. Moreover, any leader on a pedestal is bound to make mistakes at some point, the severity of which is magnified by their very public nature and the fact that such leaders are often expected to be above the mistakes of mere mortals.

"Perhaps more importantly, one leader can come to dominate the company, meaning that others with ideas for growth or experience to pass on can miss their chance. A strong leadership team, on the other hand, which is comprised of a number of different individuals with varying backgrounds, experience and talents can be enormously successful."

Mt Tait also looked at how organisations can recruit and retain a successful senior leadership team. He said that one of the best ways to develop a strong leadership team is to recruit from within, wherever possible. However, this was not always possible and companies often have to look elsewhere for leadership talent with specific skills and experience.

Companies, he said, needed to consider what leading figures in the industry are looking for, and tailor their proposition accordingly. Those companies that thought carefully about the answers to such questions and enhanced the positive points would be more likely to succeed in recruiting quality leadership talent.

Retention at senior levels was more likely if companies nurtured and developed their senior staff. Practical suggestions for developing leaders include providing flexible roles, key learning opportunities and a mentor system for senior leaders.

(SP)

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