Individuality crushed in the workplace

by 22 Sep 2009

Senior executives are compromising the productivity of their organisation by suppressing individuality and taking a highly conventional approach to leadership, recent research has revealed.

Released last week at the 11th Australian Conference on Culture and Leadership, the report, Transforming Leadership and Culture: The State of the Nations, found that 57 per cent of the 4035 senior executives surveyed had such a negative impact on their staff that they were compromising the productivity of their organisation.

In what was described as a “leadership clone syndrome”, the research found that more than a quarter (26 per cent) of managers encourage staff to fit the “mould” and follow rules, policies and standard procedures, even at the cost of new ideas and innovation.

“What we have found is that Australian leaders are extremely conservative and it’s this compliance approach to management that crushes any spark of creativity or innovation,” said Quentin Jones, managing director of Human Synergistics, which carried out the study. “And, quite frankly, to encourage conformity in the current climate is business suicide.

“This situation is particularly detrimental as we begin the journey to post-recession recovery, because Australian organisations need to employ new ways of doing business, which demands innovation. So, if we have leaders who are crushing this creativity, then they will be left behind,” he said.

Some of the other worrying leadership findings were: 13 per cent of leaders drive staff to be oppositional, critical of others to gain status, and to dismiss good ideas due to minor flaws; 12 per cent champion perfectionism by asking people to set unrealistically high goals, focus on unnecessary details over the bigger picture and promoting overtime for face value, rather than necessity; and 12 cent use power to motivate people, drive forceful and aggressive behaviour within the team, and build up power bases through controlling others.


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