The harmful cost of the UK’s cult of the accidental manager

More than half of the productivity gap between the UK and the USA can be attributed to poor management. Effective management is a necessity for success, argues the CMI's director of policy.

by Anthony Painter

In the realm of British business, leadership has taken a beating. Several of the UK's most cherished institutions have been plagued by allegations of sexual misconduct, toxic working environments, and leadership failures. This year has been particularly grim, with a constant barrage of news stories exposing the underbelly of corporate life. But rather than dismissing these incidents as the work of "bad apples", it's time to dig deeper into the root of the problem — ‘accidental managers’.

The real issue lies in our approach to promoting leaders. Far too often, we prioritise technical skills over a comprehensive set of behaviours that can propel a team to success. This short-sighted perspective carries a significant risk and stifles the opportunities that lie within our grasp.

There is an abundance of evidence reinforcing the notion that effective management is key to organisational performance. Indeed, research shows that more than half of the productivity gap between the UK and the USA can be attributed to poor management. Unlike other nations that prioritise the development of their leaders through investment in training, leadership and management skills in British businesses frequently laud those who navigate challenges without formal training, often improvising to make the most of their circumstances.

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