Follow the leader

Jackie Mathers

Jackie Mathers

Published in Business columnists

Later this month, York will welcome two shortlisted authors from this year’s Chartered Management Institute Management Book of the Year award to discuss this year’s hot topic: Leadership.

The organisers said the focus for this year’s shortlisted books shifted from management to leadership. We too are seeing a similar shift here at the Business School in the kind of support businesses are looking for. As staff increasingly look to their leaders in challenging times to steer them through choppy waters, those leaders have to make sure they are well equipped for the job.

In this year’s CMI award-winning book – The Cult Of The Leader: A Manifesto for More Authentic Business – author Christopher Bones suggests that leadership is in desperate need of a rethink.

Mr Bones talks about how modern business is obsessed with leaders, but at the same time the real meaning of leadership is becoming more and more obscure.

“Today,” he writes, “we define leaders in terms of how they seem, not their judgment and what they are able to do.”

He is particularly critical of what he regards as a generation of people who think they are owed a living because they are “worth it”, and argues that to rebuild trust and confidence, we need to redefine talent, revalue experience and reconsider remuneration. Only by doing this, he claims, will we come to a realistic appreciation of what leaders can and can’t do.

I’m relieved to say that many of the business leaders I meet in and around this region don’t live up to that reputation.

I see people working hard to keep their businesses competitive and their teams pulling together towards shared goals – all at a time when many of them aren’t in a position to reward the people who are, in many cases, having to work harder than ever just to stand still.

For me, it’s the people who can continue to drive their business forward and bring people along with them in the most challenging times who are the great leaders. And there are many of them in this city – something of which I think we can be justifiably proud.

• The CMI Management Book of the Year roadshow comes to York St John University on Tuesday, March 27, at 6pm. For more information, or to attend the event, contact the Business School on 01904 876915.

Jackie Mathers is Dean of the Business School at York St John University

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