Are we facing a lack of leadership epidemic?

Appointing an experienced leader to head up an organisation is an obvious move to even those not business-inclined, but recent news reports seem to suggest that people who lack the skills and expertise required to fulfill a successful leadership position are being wrongly appointed to these types of roles.

There have been a worryingly large number of high-profile cases of immoral leadership covered in the media in recent years. During the Jimmy Savile scandal of 2012, a report revealed that “chaos and confusion,” and “lack of leadership from senior executives” meant that the BBC was “completely incapable” of dealing with the situation. This led George Entwhistle, Director General of the BBC at the time, to resign after only a few weeks in the position.

More recently, the UK press was awash with reports over the issue of patients’ rights being breached in hospitals under the control of Welsh health board, Betsi Cadwaladr. An investigation, which began in 2013, resulted in chairman and chief executive Prof Merfyn Jones being forced to resign after “significant management failings risked patient safety”, according to a BBC report.

The question surrounding both stories was the same – why are people being employed in senior positions if they do not possess the skills to manage the operations of their organisation?

To add to this, last week the Metropolitan police service released the results of an internal survey conducted in 2014. The survey revealed that just one in five employees and staff had “confidence in the leadership provided by the senior leaders in the Met”. It also found that only 30% of Met staff felt confident that the public receives good service. What does this say about an organisation if its staff doesn’t have confidence or trust in senior roles?

Lack of leadership isn’t a new problem – it’s an issue that’s affected organisations for many years and has become particularly acute in the health and social care sectors in recent years

So what makes a good executive – a leader – and why does it appear to be so difficult for organisations to source the right candidate who possesses the desired qualities?

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