New research highlights almost three-quarters of UK workers felt that their company’s leadership was “lacking” during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, effective leadership has been a necessity in order to cope with the momentous amounts of pressure and change that 2020 has caused.

However, a new study by ILM, a City & Guilds group business and a provider of leadership qualifications, finds that almost three-quarters of UK professionals believe that some part of their company’s leadership was lacking during COVID-19.

According to employees, business leaders are most likely to fail in displaying soft skills. Over a third reported that leaders or managers in their company failed to exhibit empowerment or motivation to their teams (36 per cent).

Additionally, over three in 10 workers stated that their leaders did not show empathy and emotional intelligence (31 per cent). This, the employees reported, had a significant impact on their own motivation and performance.

Finally, despite COVID-19 forcing companies to come up with new and innovative ways to handle the repercussions of the crisis, over a third of workers (35 per cent) said that problem solving was not displayed by their leadership. A further 29 per cent of respondents stated that their company’s organisational skills were lacking during this pandemic. This is significantly worrying when considering the shift to remote working earlier in the year and the pivotal need for effective organisational skills in order to make this move work.

When questioned on what skills are most important for their leaders to exhibit, over two-thirds (68 per cent) stated people management. Just under half wanted to see leaders show good communication skills (48 per cent). Additionally, the same number of people (48 per cent) desired their leaders to be able to build relationships and interpersonal skills.

Worryingly, around a third of professionals (31 per cent) reported that their company does not have any measures in place to identify leadership and management potential in their staff.

A further one in six (16 per cent) stated that their company does not invest in career development for leaders and managers. 17 per cent don’t believe that their organisation develops and identifies potential leaders and managers effectively.

David Phillips, Managing Director of City & Guilds and ILM, commented:

In times of crisis, strong leadership and management isn’t just important, it’s business critical. This year, firms have faced unprecedented circumstances and have had to make some very difficult decisions – putting their leadership and management skills to the test. But, as Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently made clear, this isn’t the end of the challenges that businesses will face over the next few years, so it’s important we act now to better equip our leaders and managers for the future.

With further uncertainty and change on the horizon thanks to tough economic conditions and a messy Brexit, the businesses that succeed will be the ones that have leaders and managers who can guide their teams to respond, adapt and change to whatever the future throws at them. New ways of working necessitate new skills, and it’s incredibly important that senior executives ensure their whole leadership team is equipped with the skills they need – not only to navigate turbulent times, but to get the most out of individuals and teams too.

*This research was carried out by City & Guilds group in October 2020 by working with research agency Censuswise. They carried out a poll of over 3500 employers and employees in the UK across a wide range of regions and sectors. The survey asked the respondents a number of questions to ascertain their experiences of management and leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, and their wider attitudes towards leadership and management training and strategy.