Management Futures: March round-up

01 April 2014

Over the past month we kicked off a discussion on the power of role models to change management culture.

A recent CMI survey of over 1,700 members threw up some striking facts. For starters, only one in three (34%) of CMI members says their own boss sets a good example, so it’s no wonder that many managers look further afield for inspiration! Looking at the topic through the lens of women’s under-representation in senior management roles, the survey also suggested that women see fewer examples to inspire them.

The survey also helped us put together a list of managers’ top 10 role models. The list featured some undoubtedly inspirational figures – but it was also a list with only two women, both of whom are dead. It got us thinking: what would a more contemporary list look like? Well, you can find out here.

Another finding was echoed the idea discussed in our March blog that ‘extra-curricular’ influences – i.e. those of people who are not managers or management gurus – may be greater than we commonly assume. For many people, parents are – in every sense – the starting point. It’s a reminder that management and leadership in business or any other sector remains very much part of society, not a separate world, and our way of being as a manager has multiple influences.

One of those who did make the CMI list was Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of John Lewis, who was – as it happens – a guest speaker at the latest meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management’s Commission on the Future of Management & Leadership on 18 March. Sir Charlie’s testimony simultaneously confirmed the strength of the employee-owned democratic model, but contained a warning note for John Lewis’s many admirers, especially in the political world, who tend to assume that the ownership structure determines everything. A company is only as good as the way in which it is run.

He described how the management is directly accountable to the employees, who are partners, but added: ‘The manager is there to support people running the business. The one caveat is that this could be a rose-tinted view: we have to work very hard to make that work all the time.’

This testimony, and indeed the rationale for the APPG report, highlights the significance of the culture of the organisation, the conduct and values of leaders and managers. Given that this month has seen further dreadful headlines for the Co-operative Group (not discussed at the Commission session), the observation that employee ownership is no panacea is telling.

Conduct and values can be more important than ownership structure or policy. These themes are also addressed in the new report Managers and their MoralDNA, covered in the April blog.

But perhaps the last thought on the power of role models should be a note sounded by the brilliant speakers at the CMI/WIM event on role models at the start of the month. Every manager can, in their own way, be a role model for those people around them – male and female alike – especially those earlier in their management careers. And who could be better placed than CMI members to do just that? 

Submitted by Philip Wood

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