Research

Leaders prefer to emulate peers, not textbooks

21 Aug 2017 By Emily Burt

A new ILM study suggests management skills are ‘contagious’ in UK workplaces

A new study from the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) suggests management skills are ‘contagious’ in UK workplaces, with 74 per cent of employees mirroring the leadership styles of their peers.

A survey of 2,000 UK workers found that they imitate colleagues and learn certain leadership behaviours by ‘osmosis’. The most contagious traits include communication skills, copied by 18 per cent of workers, customer service (10 per cent) and problem-solving (9 per cent).

Employees reported emulating colleagues for several reasons: three-quarters said they copied the humour of their colleagues in the hope it would help them work better with them, while one in three imitated the delegation and organisational skills of their superiors in the hope it would get them a pay rise.

“The learning of management skills has been left to osmosis for far too long,” says John Williams, director of digital at ILM. “We were aware that many leadership and management skills came as the result of emulating others, but were surprised by the degree to which this was happening in the workplace.

“Far too often, the assumption is made that people who are technically proficient can manage a team without having been taught those management skills.”

More than half (58 per cent) of survey respondents said they would prefer more formal training and development when it comes to acquiring new skills and capabilities.

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