HR managers should base leadership on trust

by 12 May 2010

HR managers and managers-to-be take note: Australian employees rate having a trustworthy manager as being twice as desirable as one who delivers good financial results.

In a list of desired senior leadership characteristics polled in the Towers Watson Global Workforce Study 2010, being able to trust managers came out on top (68 per cent), with managing financial performance successfully (34 per cent) coming way down the list.

Lesley Brown, practice leader for Towers Watson’s employee surveys and insight business, said that for many employees what they’re really looking for is a balanced set of leadership skills.

Caring about the wellbeing of others (60 per cent) was the second most important trait in managers, while encouragement of talent (53 per cent) also scored highly. Being highly visible was ranked as desirable by 52 per cent of respondents.

“Employees nowadays like to build their own careers and have a mentoring relationship with their manager,” says Brown. “This kind of relationship develops trust and creates a supportive organisational culture, and without it managers will face challenges in retention and engagement.”

Brown adds that managers should take advantage of being embedded with their future reports. “Frontline managers can build an emotional touch point with their colleagues over time, which is far harder for senior managers to do as they lack the constant interaction.”

Further down the list of desirables came articulating the organisation’s vision and strategy (27 per cent) and promoting the brand/image of the organisation (21 per cent).

A key element to management success is, of course, communication, and it seems Australian leaders are adept at maintaining correspondence, particularly in testing times.

The survey said that weekly communication by Australian leaders actually increased during the economic crisis compared to the rest of the world, with 38 per cent of respondents communicated with staff once a week or more compared to 31 per cent globally.


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