Ann Francke: now is the time for careful management and leadership

17 December 2019 -

Ann Francke: Now is the Time for Careful Management and LeadershipAt last we have clarity over Brexit, and the UK has the chance to move forward together. But delivering the new government’s ambitious investment plans will require serious management and leadership skills – and this makes CMI’s agenda more important than ever

Ann Francke

The general election result was a clear mandate from the British electorate to the new government that it is now time to complete the Brexit process and ensure the UK leaves the European Union on 31 January 2020. Business leaders and managers have been calling for certainty from the government; we now have it.

It’s clear that the new Conservative government intends to kickstart a major investment programme across the country, and make determined efforts to unite the country. We will see more devolution and active regional policies, especially in the north of England and the Midlands, to address voters’ concerns. At CMI, we welcome all this.

But unleashing the country’s potential will require management and leadership skills just as much as technical skills. Recruiting and appointing 20,000 more police officers and 50,000 nurses, investing in infrastructure and building scores of new hospitals, needs careful management and leadership.

In short, CMI’s agenda is more important than ever.

Upskilling Britain

CMI’s manifesto put forward some key measures to address the UK’s management skills gap – as a country we’ll need 1.9 million new, effective managers by 2024 – and eliminate the damaging problem of ‘accidental managers’ in the UK. I hope CMI members and everyone in the management and leadership community will get behind us in these.

I’d like to make a few further comments on the priorities for the incoming government:

  • In their campaign the Conservatives proposed a £2bn ‘National Skills Fund’. This is good news of course, but within it there must be a strong focus on upskilling and enhancing people’s management and leadership capabilities. As McKinsey has pointed out, in an age of technology, management and leadership become more, not less important.
  • And any national skills plan needs to focus on truly making individuals in organisations more productive. Let’s get away from measuring inputs (number of learners) and move onto measuring outputs.
  • As part of any wider education reform, we must as a country make sure we embed employability at every level and every age group.
  • Apprenticeships are a vital lever for improving social mobility. But the Apprenticeship Levy and the whole apprenticeship system needs to be more flexible.

On Brexit

After three years of tortuous debate and damaging uncertainty, it’s great that the country can move forward. At last we have clarity and alignment. Prime minister Boris Johnson’s majority also means that he is less beholden to hardliners and has a mandate to negotiate a softer, more business-friendly Brexit.

Now the whole debate about Brexit moves to one about execution. The real work on Brexit begins now.

We’re at the beginning, not the end, of a trade negotiations, and this will be a very difficult, tricky process that may last a long time. We face a classic set of management challenges: ambiguity, complexity, milestones, negotiating skills, maximising common ground rather than accentuating differences, being collaborative. Individuals and organisations around the country will need to bring their A-game. Management and leadership skills will be to the fore.

Leadership lessons from #GE2019

For me, one of the big lessons from the 2019 general election campaign is that you need to communicate clearly. That’s why the Conservatives did so well. You can’t have the ambiguity of the Labour position. As for the Lib Dems, I felt they should have emphasised their ‘bench strength’ rather than putting all the focus on just one individual.

In conclusion

This is a chance for Britain to move forward. We can be one of the world’s most progressive, productive countries if we get this post-Brexit era right. Yes, there’s a lot at stake but we can be positive about the future if we focus on the things that really matter. That means managing and leading in an inclusive way that brings people together, rather than divides them.

Happy Christmas to you all!

Ann Francke is chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Keep an eye out for Ann's new monthly blog, starting in the new year, where she'll give her take on the politics, news and management stories of the day.


CMI’s Manifesto 2019 outlines a series of measures to upskill Britain. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Commit to increasing the number and standard of qualified managers and leaders across the UK.
  • Accelerate efforts to close pay gaps. Extend reporting requirements to include more organisations; require employers to set targets for closing the gap, and to report annually on progress.These should include additional measures such as ethnicity, availability and use of flexible working, and shared parental leave and pay.
  • Implement ‘Transparency with Teeth’ when firms fail to meet their transparency and reporting commitments regarding diversity and inclusion.
  • Raise awareness and implementation of flexible working.
  • Ensure all school and college leavers and graduates have access to leadership and management development as a core part of their studies.
  • Work closely with professional bodies on the roll-out of new education routes (such as T-levels) and in the development of occupational standards.
  • Involve professional bodies in a national awareness-raising campaign around the different routes through higher-level education.
Powered by Professional Manager