The professional status of leadership is now unquestionable, courtesy of the Institute of Managers and Leaders’ internationally recognised accreditation.
By DEBORAH TARRANT
Doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, accountants, human resources practitioners, project managers, airline pilots, psychologists, university professors . . . the list of professionals is inordinately long.
Until recently, managers and leaders didn’t get a look-in. Yes, those responsible for running organisations, entrusted to make smart decisions about who gets ahead and operational efficiencies, and to determine powerful strategic directions that may impact on hundreds, maybe millions of others, have been an ad hoc bunch. Some had great natural abilities or the advantage of admirable role models to emulate. Some had MBAs, while others learned by trial-and-error. Many were technical specialists who soared to great heights in their chosen discipline before becoming ‘accidental managers and leaders’. Not all were success stories.
When considering why it has taken so long to ‘professionalise’ managers and leaders, a key question arises: what makes a professional?
In the case of managers and leaders, wide global debate over this kicked off in the first issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) in 1922, when professor John Gurney Callan ventured business “may be thought of as a profession [and] we may profitably spend a good deal of time in considering what is the best professional training for [those] who are to take important executive positions in the coming generation”.
Almost a century on, arguments about the professionalism of managers and leaders hit fever pitch with the unfolding of the 2007/2008 global financial crisis and the need to identify who was responsible, and why.
Joel Podolny, a former dean of the Yale School of Management, joined the cacophony of voices in 2009 when he wrote in HBR: “An occupation earns the right to be a profession only when some ideals, such as being an impartial counsel, doing no harm or serving the greater good are infused into the conduct of people in that occupation.”
Ironically, across the Atlantic, a gold standard for professional status had been created a few years before when the UK’s Chartered Management Institute (CMI), formerly the British Institute of Management, got the nod from the Privy Council in 2003 to award a Chartered Manager (CMgr) designation to those who met exacting standards of professionalism.
CMI and the Institute of Managers and Leaders have now joined forces to offer the internationally recognised designation to managers and leaders in Australia and New Zealand. Professional status is now clear cut. As the Privy Council explains on its website, “royal charters are reserved for eminent professional bodies or charities which have a solid record of achievement and are financially sound”.
PROFESSIONAL PROOF POINTS
“This is a very important time as we see the impact of leadership and management at all levels of society, across the public sector, private, government and in every organisation,” says Professor Danny Samson FIML, of the University of Melbourne’s Department of Management and Marketing, who has been researching the topic for three decades.
Samson was on the taskforce that produced the groundbreaking 1995 Karpin Report, which identified ways to help Australia’s business leaders and managers meet the challenges of the Asia-Pacific century and advocated competency-based training for frontline managers.
“I have participated in the maturing of our knowledge about what works when it comes to effective leadership and management. Now we know [their] impact is absolutely huge when it comes to organisational performance, effectiveness, outcomes, competitiveness . . . it’s timely to move leadership and management from being relatively loose and informal to having professional standards and a mature base of knowledge,” Samson says.
One person with an eagle eye on the professionalisation debate is David Pich, chief executive of the Institute of Managers and Leaders. Copious research and investigation led him to evaluate the powerful case for chartered managers. One compelling reason is “leadership and management are the skills other professions are crying out for”, he says.
Take engineers or accountants, he suggests: “Their technical skills are taken as read, but often when applying for a role in those fields they must prove they can manage and lead. These skills have become differentiators – what sets people apart – which is why it is a profession.”
Disruption and the pace of change only highlight the need, according to Pich, who argues today’s globalised organisations demand more complex skills. “Typically, all have managers and leaders but they may have team members all over the world, some of whom may not even work for their organisation.”
John P. Dawson, an Australian-based change-management consultant and coach, sees high value in a designation as a proof point. “There’s increasing recognition in many areas of society now that exams and lived experience don’t necessarily result in quality outcomes. Knowledge transfer is not useful by itself, what’s required is demonstration of practical results, a rigorous process with ongoing professional development.”
Dawson has multiple perspectives on the value of professional designations, as a certified performance technologist (CPT) himself, accredited by the International Society of Performance Improvement, which requires CPTs to show they meet standards for consulting interventions and produce the results required by the client who must sign off.
More recently, he worked with the Risk Management Institute of Australasia to develop a 360-degree behaviour assessment tool for the interpersonal skills and powers of persuasion of certified chief risk officers.
“It’s timely to move leadership and management from being relatively loose and informal to having professional standards and a mature base of knowledge.”
– Professor Danny Samson FIML
DEFINING THE BENEFITS
Professional accreditation instantly conveys the holder is “qualified in delivering results, not just trained in how to do it,” Dawson insists. For individuals, it also offers the opportunity to benchmark their abilities. Benefits of accreditation flow to individuals first in the recruitment process, as well as to employers – and let’s not forget recruiters themselves.
THE CONFIDENCE FACTOR
A resounding benefit experienced by chartered managers that emerges in a CMI interview series is their growth in positive self-image. In the research, 90 per cent say it’s raised their self-confidence.
It gave Reetu Kansal CMgr MCMI, now the project manager for assessment tasks at the University of London, the confidence to step up. Likewise Michael Brearey CMgr FCMI of RDF Building Services, whose career has taken him from working the tools as a labourer to being promoted to managing director.
Emily Smith CMgr MCMI, program manager for the Institute of Food Research, had the ambition to take an organisation founded on “pure scientific research” into the development of therapies and healthy products. “It’s made me think bigger. It opens your eyes to a more strategic view of the world – like how we might take our program of research forward in this exciting new centre [for food and health research],” she says.
Chartered engineer Andrew Robins CMgr MCMI, director of engineering and quality at Twiflex, a company that makes heavy-duty parts for the marine industry and oil, gas, wind and tidal energy producers, admits to being “a fish out of water” when promoted to his first management role when his boss left in 2010. Suddenly he was responsible for managing seven engineers.
His motivation for becoming a CMgr was the instant need to a more well-rounded professional – he also wanted to demonstrate his dedication – but found the value came in the CMI’s learning tools and practical advice. These days his team is lean manufacturing with a visual management system that tracks KPIs.
By contrast, Karl Thurogood CMgr FCMI, CEO of Greater Manchester Police Federation, was 20 years into his management career when he sought the designation “as a stamp of approval, the hallmark to accredit skills I have”. “Most managers come by their job naturally, and they don’t give themselves enough credit for what they do,” says Thurogood, who points to the analytical self-reflection required in the chartered manager process as particularly useful.
“The better managers and leaders we are as individuals, the better contributors we are to society.”
– David Pich FIML
Chief executive of the Institute of Managers and Leaders
THE POWER OF REFLECTION
The Australian program replicates the CMI model by drawing on the power of self-reflection to shape managers and leaders. “At its heart, self-reflection requires that you question your assumptions and your habits and ask whether they are useful in dealing with the world around you. Without this work, management and leadership training is merely window dressing,” attests Daniel Dobrygowski, global leadership fellow at the World Economic Forum.
Reflection on competence and skill to bring on self-awareness and questioning is pivotal in the program, says Pich, and it’s not a one-off experience, but ongoing as chartered managers must keep log books on their progress and are checked on periodically.
“Knowing yourself is the first step towards being able to understand and get the most out of others; and self-reflection is particularly important for leaders as they focus on vision and change,” Samson confirms.
“Most workplaces are highly dissatisfied and that’s because of bad management. Everyone watches their boss and, if that’s all it is, there’s as much bad practice learned as best practice,” Samson says.
A frequently quoted statistic is the number of people who leave jobs because of poor managers – a 2015 Gallup survey of 7200 people put the figure at 50 per cent, so there is much costly churn to be avoided, along with tangible side effects such as mental health issues – stress and anxiety – and family breakdown.
“There are clear benefits for organisations in showing their managers and leaders meet the standard expected by shareholders and employees. If you’re going to attract the best staff, you must employ the best staff, people who can prove they’re the best managers and leaders,” Pich insists. The Institute will encourage employers to put all their managers and leaders through the program.
THE MISSING PIECES
The imperative for “empowered” people and teams has been the substance of many a 21st century leader’s catch cry, but what’s been missing is the leadership and management of another critical resource and that’s processes, says Samson. “You have to be good at both in an integrated way to be successful. Not enough is done about getting process leadership right.
“Processes occur in two major domains: first are the processes we use to produce the products and services for today’s customers; second are the innovation and disruption processes to develop the next generation of goods and services.”
Samson, who has worked with more than 500 senior public sector managers at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government since it was formed 15 years ago, says process management is where many bright, passionate leaders get stymied in government agencies. “Public sector managers are highly motivated and want to do a great job, but they’re often frustrated by the lack of process effectiveness and find themselves working around it.
“Our research has shown on average one-third of organisations’ resources are wasted on process noise, and in the public sector it’s at least that high,” Samson says. “A chartered designation signals that this person can run processes or projects and can manage and motivate people.”
THE GREATER GOOD
Chartered status is a marque of quality assurance in an epoch when emphasis on the greater good has delivered “sustainability” as its loudest buzzword. David Pich sees the professionalisation of managers and leaders as having impact that far exceeds the workplace. Under the charter, the Privy Council decrees a requirement to act in the public interest.
“The better managers and leaders we are as individuals, the better contributors we are to society,” Pich ventures. “From school P & Cs to local sporting clubs and associations, the number of management and leadership roles has increased significantly over the past 20 years, and many have similar business structures to workplaces. The difference is people are giving their time and the skills they have learned at work, which means there’s a flow-on effect in a wider societal impact and purpose in defining and accrediting management competence.
“Is that a lofty vision?” Pich asks. Isn’t that what leadership is all about?