A survey conducted by Digits in 2021 found that 26% of managers have never received any management training. The same study also found that one in seven (14%) managers are trying to manage large teams of ten or more people without any management training at all. It also highlighted the fact that those with just one direct report are the least likely to receive training.
A separate study by Grovo found things to be worse still. Their findings suggested that 44% of new managers felt unprepared for their role, and 87% wished they’d had more training before stepping into management.
These statistics – and there are countless studies with similar findings – sit uncomfortably with me because they cut hard and deep into my core beliefs about leadership.
I fundamentally believe that a leader’s job is to deliver the results we are accountable for while looking after and developing the people we have the privilege and responsibility to lead. And in doing so, we must never forget that every single person we lead is the most important person in the world to somebody else.
How we act and behave as a leader doesn’t just impact people at work; it affects how they are at home. And that will have an impact on their loved ones, too.
The Costs of Not Investing in Emerging Leaders
If 44% of first-time leaders and managers feel unprepared to undertake this critical role, we have two distinct groups of people that are suffering.
Firstly, there are the people who are being deprived of their right to competent, inspiring leadership. Then there are the managers who are doing their very best to succeed in a challenging job, despite the fact that they haven’t been equipped with the essential skills and know-how to succeed. And let’s face facts for a moment; the job of a leader or manager isn’t going to get easier any time soon.
The negative impact of this is extensive, obvious, and well-documented.
But ultimately, it boils down to this. There will be vast swathes of disengaged team members – and leaders – working way below their potential, affecting the performance of the company that employs them.
I first became aware of the fact that so many managers were stepping into their first role without the proper training while working at one of the UK’s leading retailers. This realization led me to set up my business with the vision of creating a world where everyone can go to work inspired to give their best while going home feeling appreciated as a human being, and that their hard work has been recognized.
Like any good vision, this is wildly aspirational. I know deep down that I’ll never make it a reality.
But it continues to serve as the north star for all I do, and I work tirelessly towards it every day.
Lifelong Leadership Lessons
I also appreciate the fact that I was incredibly privileged to have received what is arguably the best leadership training that the UK has to offer at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. To this day, I’m still amazed by the effectiveness of this great institution’s selection and development processes.
They take young men and women, who are, on average, 21 years old, and put them through 11 months of intensive leadership training. That is then followed by 3-6 months of further training specific to the part of the Army they are joining.
Immediately after that, they take up a position leading around 30 soldiers, which could involve a near immediate operational deployment to Iraq or some other theatre of operations, as was the case for myself.
By the time I was 25 years old, I’d completed two tours of duty in Iraq. It was initially leading 30 soldiers and later being second in command to around 150.
I learned so many valuable lessons in this period of my life that have continued to serve me well in every job I’ve done since. Moreover, these experiences provided the foundations that enabled me to succeed in the more significant and complex leadership roles that followed.
Paying It Forward
I realize that very few young people get the opportunities I had.
This is why I’ve decided to create a new Emerging Leaders Programme that shares some of the foundational lessons I learned in those formative leadership positions and beyond. And in the run-up to International Youth Day on 12th August 2022, I’m offering it to the under 25s with a 90% discount for a limited time.
If you employ any under 25s in your organization, please get in touch, and I’ll tell you how you can secure as many places as you like for your younger colleagues so they can succeed instead of floundering.