Mission critical: the management hot topics

Written by Ann Francke OBE Tuesday 15 December 2020
John Board dean of Henley Business School and top NHS leader Delroy Beverley share what’s on their radar for 2021
Ann Francke OBE, CMI's CEO

In the most recent Better Managers Briefing, I spoke to two advocates of management development – and management books – about how leadership programmes will evolve after 2020.

John Board CMgr CCMI is the dean of Henley Business School, a long-standing CMI partner and former sponsor of CMI’s prestigious Management Book of the Year award; Delroy Beverley CMgr CCMI is managing director of York NHS, sits on the governing council of Huddersfield University and is a judge of the 2021 CMI Management Book of the Year award.

The year that changed everything

Books have enjoyed a strong 2020; e-books have had their most successful year ever. “Books are here to stay and they'll be with us well past my lifetime,” says John. But what will this mean for the nature of business books? “Managing through crises and uncertainty are common threads running through business books regardless of when they are published,” he notes.

Looking ahead, John believes people will increasingly turn to podcasts and digital ‘quick-fixes’ for technical information, whereas business books will come to serve a different purpose. “The good business books will be the ones that build on a base of anecdotal technique rather than try to bring people up to speed.”

What seems clear is that the leadership and management challenges we've navigated over the past few months will provide rich inspiration for the future, John says. In ten years’ time he reckons CMI’s Management Book of the Year award will be about what happened during Covid-19.

Business education, with a human twist

It’s inevitable that business education will change, says John. He believes that we’ll move away from ‘technocratic’ leadership as the social aspect of management magnifies post-crisis. “That is at the heart of good business education and that's going to stay.”

MBAs are already evolving and demand will remain high, John believes: “The most value people get from an MBA is at the senior leader end of their careers. MBAs for 25-year-olds or people who are still in a professional capacity are probably dying.”

Efforts to encourage the next generation of leaders would suffer if business education were to go totally online, Delroy believes. The benefits of peer-to-peer interaction are huge, he says, and that’s a compelling reason why the education sector needs to encourage people to come back into university and business school campuses. “The world has changed but we need to adapt to the situation without necessarily losing the primary purposes of what we're trying to achieve.”

Educating amateur managers

Another benefit of education is not only teaching new skills to managers, but bettering the skills already in their repertoire. At CMI we firmly believe in upskilling accidental managers to turn them into conscientious leaders, but John has another interesting idea.

“What we'll need in the next couple of years is to get rid of not just the accidental manager – who can be really good – but the amateur manager,” he says. “One of the important things about CMI’s accreditations and good business schools is getting rid of amateur managers. These are people who come from the wrong background or from a different environment saying because I was a very good X, I am therefore a very good manager. Getting rid of that overconfidence from the amateurs is really important.”

Education is a powerful way of eradicating poor management practice from organisations, we agree.

Be the leader your people need

Delroy says he’s adapted his management leadership style since the start of the pandemic, as the need to reassure and motivate employees has increased. “Some days you will have to be a therapist, a counsellor, a nurturer, a facilitator and an encourager, because in the [healthcare] environment that I'm working in, people are genuinely scared of catching something.” Because healthcare staff have to come into work every day, leaders can motivate them by being a visible presence.

Wherever you are, leaders need to be collaborative, says John. This echoes the findings of CMI’s Management Transformed study. To make a success of hybrid working, we need to find ways to emulate ‘watercooler moments’ and ad-hoc casual conversations. “There's a lot of extra work to be done to move it from experiments brought on by a crisis into normal business. Let's not assume it'll simply continue seamlessly,” he says.

Keep diversity on the agenda

Both leaders are concerned that Covid-19 could reverse the progress on diversity that’s been made in recent years. Delroy believes strongly that a combination of policy and incentives are needed to tackle the disproportionate impact that the pandemic’s had on the BAME community – and to encourage entrepreneurship. Many are in denial about workplace racism, he believes.

“I’ve watched this debate closely over the course of this pandemic. I actually believe there are people in quiet corridors thinking that this is not really happening in the Black and Asian Minority Ethnic communities – and it absolutely is. When there’s a ‘lookback’ on 2020, there is clear evidence to suggest that ethnic minorities have suffered quite significantly.”

John believes the momentum is now unstoppable. “The debate is moving from the first run of the politics of Black Lives Matter towards what the permanent effect is going to be. The crisis has shown you can't just continue with old-style corporate culture. You've got to be innovative and you've got to be more sympathetic.”

Be more you

Delroy believes that authentic leadership should be a part of every management and leadership programme. “The most genuine leaders are the most authentic ones,” he says. He adds that we must continue to shine the light on what good management and leadership looks like, because the last 12 months has demonstrated that there are still a lot of challenges.

When you’re a leader, people need to see that you genuinely care about them. “People will do more for you if they feel that you appreciate what they're doing,” says Delroy. Self-care must also be high on the leadership agenda. “If you can't take care of yourself, how can you really take care of others and lead others?” Delroy asks.


You can watch our conversation in full here. This is the last Better Managers Briefing we’ll have until 2021 – be sure to check in next year for our fantastic line up.

We recently featured another article featuring Delroy Beverley CMgr CCMI: The gatekeepers of racial diversity at work need to step up.

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