In the joint project, communications company Orange and Exeter University’s Centre for Leadership Studies questioned over 5,000 of Britain’s bosses and employees to explore leadership styles in the post-recessionary climate.
The findings revealed that financial prudence is now considered by the majority (73%) of employees as among the most defining qualities of sound leadership.
In six out of 10 cases, bosses who had demonstrated sound financial judgment since the onset of the downturn in November 2008 were viewed by employees as being the more effective and successful leaders.
When questioned, being ‘good with budgets’ was consistently ranked by employees as the most important skill, above charisma, academic qualifications and physical appearance. Only 38% of the employees questioned believe that being an impressive orator is a key factor for successful leadership.
Feedback from bosses on the study, which was carried out to help inform the search for the finalists of the 2010 Orange Leader of the Year Award, part of the prestigious National Business Awards, which recognises outstanding leadership in business, revealed that they are striving to meet the changing expectations of employees.
When questioned over four in 10 revealed that they had recently turned down a bonus in an attempt to be seen as more financially prudent. It is a move welcomed by employees, with 40% saying that it had positively influenced their perception of the individual as a leader.
The study also revealed that this behaviour is part of a committed response by business leaders in exercising a greater degree of empathy towards employees.
Over half of bosses revealed that they had actively softened their leadership stance in order to be seen as part of the team and over one third revealed they now take a more active interest in the welfare of their work force.
Jonathan Gosling, Centre for Leadership, said: “The study has revealed that demonstrating emotional intelligence is a vital leadership trait. Employees are looking for bosses who connect with them on an emotional level, acting as more of a peer rather than an inaccessible, unapproachable superior. There’s growing pressure therefore for bosses to bridge an apparent contradiction: employees respond best to bosses who are good at team-working; but they also respect prudence and decisiveness. Leaders are expected to be close enough to understand and contribute to facing the daily challenges of work, but distant enough to remain clear headed and focused on the bigger picture.”
Clegg: The leader who emulated by bosses, more than Cameron
The study revealed this evolving perception of leadership is also being applied outside of the work environment. When questioned, Nick Clegg was identified as the political party leader most emulated by business bosses for his open and honest approach. It saw him rated above Cameron (15%), with prospective Labour leadership contenders David Milliband and Andy Burnham coming in at 5% & 1% respectively.
Martin Stiven, VP of Business at Orange said: “The recession has reshaped how we define great leaders and the traits that are now considered as vital ingredients for success both in and outside the board room. Whilst the economic climate provides a testing time for leaders, it has also defined new leaders and the 2010 Orange Leader of the Year Award will recognise those individuals who have combined outstanding leadership qualities with exceptional business acumen.”
Half of the 5,000 respondents questioned also claimed that those politicians and business leaders who were associated with making sound financial judgements are now viewed as the better leaders with Chancellor George Osborne and Mervin King topping the list. Fred Goodwin came bottom nominated by less than 1% of respondents.