Ann Francke: why leaders must take a different tack in 2019

07 January 2019 -


If the last 12 months were about divisiveness and entrenched positions, then leaders need to focus on tolerance and collaboration in 2019

Ann Francke

International leaders did not set a good example in 2018. In the political world, too many took up extreme and entrenched positions, with flagrant disregard for what’s sensible to the outside world. This needs to change as we enter a new year.

In the UK, some of the behaviour was abominable in 2018, with political parties tearing themselves and each other apart. In 2019 I hope that, rather than constant polarising, we see our political leaders work together and take divergent, cross-party views into account.

This isn’t just a point about Brexit. In the US there have been warring factions of Republicans and Democrats. The Russians and others are exploiting the situation and playing nations off against each other.

For me, the watchwords for 2019 should be diversity, tolerance, inclusion and collaboration. Diverse teams listen to each other more, respect each other’s points of view and, as a result, get much better results. Leaders who embrace these kind of values are better placed to reassess their markets and pivot their strategies. Sadly, the opposite seems to be happening on the UK high street where we’re seeing continuing high-profile closures.

At CMI, we will practise what we preach in terms of our own strategy. In 2018, there was a lot of contradictory information and polarised opinion around the value of apprenticeships and, particularly, around the value of management apprenticeships. In 2019, the focus must get back to the wider priority of improving our productivity as a nation.

Everyone agrees that upskilling our workforce is the number-one way to boost productivity, so it’s very unhelpful when some people say that such opportunities should only be available for young people – and thus exclude older workers and middle managers. We at CMI strongly believe in the value of shorter, more flexible apprenticeship programmes, and we’ll be continuing to make that positive case.

But in the true spirit of 2019, our approach won’t be about getting entrenched. ‘My way or the highway’ is too often the road to nowhere.

Looking ahead, I want to bring a couple of new initiatives to the attention of CMI members.

The first is the launch of ‘CMI Corporate Membership’, an important new way to embed more professionally qualified managers and leaders across UK organisations. Management has rarely been taken seriously in Britain, according to The Economist – “the cult of the gifted amateur prevails.” CMI Corporate Membership will provide tools, support and pathways to ‘Charter’ to all an organisation’s managers, not just their own Chartered Managers. Good management delivers growth and productivity, and CMI Corporate Membership can make good management a reality all around the UK.

And finally, I’ll be writing a book, out in September! You’ll probably know that I’m passionate about the issue of gender balance, which was a huge subject in 2018 and will be again in 2019. Working with the publisher Penguin Business, it’ll be exciting to contribute more to this important debate and, I hope, encourage many more diverse, tolerant, inclusive and collaborative leaders to realise their full potential.

Happy new year!

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