Recent research shows a decline in relationship between UK employees and senior leaders, indicating that traditional practices of displaying leadership are no longer working in the “new normal”. 

According to a recent report by O.C Tanner, more than a third of workers in the UK (36 per cent) no longer feel confident in their senior leaders since the start of the pandemic.

Roughly the same number of workers (37 per cent) expressed feeling unsupported by their senior leaders, making them feel isolated and vulnerable in their job role.

The report encourages businesses to embrace the idea of a modern leader – one which “connects employees to purpose, accomplishment, and one another”  and “play a central role in creating successful cultural and business outcomes”.

As such, it denounces traditional leadership development programs that select only a few “high-potential” candidates for training and advancement. This, the research suggests, encourages gatekeeping as opposed to mentoring. These leaders are also more likely to lose employee trust, confidence and support, which will have further damage on employee-leader relations.

Close to three-fifths of organisations (58 per cent) still use this system whilst under half (49 per cent) offer leadership development opportunities to all.

The report adds that modern leaders can lead more effectively through inclusion.

This includes being able to navigate the complex, intersectional identities of their employees as opposed to taking a “one-dimensional” approach to D&I. By doing this, the probability that an employee feels that their organisation is inclusive becomes 9 times higher.

Alternatively, whilst relationships between senior leaders and staff have worsened during the pandemic, almost half of workers (49 per cent) have been enjoying a closer bond with employees on their team.

Robert Ordever, MD of O.C. Tanner Europe, stated:

When faced with a shared crisis, people are more likely to pull together and show support. The closer bonds workers are feeling is indicative of this. On the flipside, it’s disappointing that poor leadership during the crisis has left many workers feeling let down.

Discussing this further, Mr. Ordever continued:

A poor leadership approach impacts staff engagement and motivation. During a crisis, this is exacerbated, as workers’ immediate needs aren’t being addressed. Confidence is quickly lost with workers withdrawing and feeling isolated.

Those who’ve led their teams with compassion and understanding throughout the pandemic will be the winners, coming out the other side with a positive and thriving workplace culture.


*These findings are detailed in O.C Tanner’s 2021 Global Culture Report which questioned 40,175 workers globally, including over 1,600 in the UK.