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    Ninety per cent of Australians work in a negative culture of blame, indecision and conformity, according to a study of 900 major organisations.

    The study released yesterday by international organisation development firm Human Synergistics, involved more than 130,000 employees.

    It found management styles and bosses’ actions were out of touch with the espoused values of most organisations.

    Human Synergistics spokesman Quentin Jones said the study, titled Organisational Culture Inventory, found most managers worked under misguided assumptions about human behaviour.

    “Managers who demand perfection will often find such stringent demands result in staff feeling nervous about failure, experiencing stress, making mistakes and hiding them for fear of being singled out,” he said.

    “Similarly, many organisations talk empowerment but then structure jobs and roles in ways that allow for minimum influence.”

    He said many bosses were learning that their management style created the workforce culture and, in many cases, needed to change.

    The study will be a feature topic of the sixth Australian Conference on culture and Leadership to be held in Sydney and Melbourne later this month.


    The above article appeared in the 5th July edition of the Townsville Bulletin and is typical of most of the results of similar research on management practices.

    Note that the terms ‘management’ or ‘managers’ were used five times in the article and ‘leadership’ once and only then in the Conference title. And that illustrates the core of the issue.

    Most managers are trained and learn by their seniors’ example to manage people as though they are just another resource that can be structured, organized and controlled just like other systems, processes and material inputs they employ. But people need to be led, not managed, and the reason we have the situation described above is that far less emphasis is placed on the development of leaders in organizations than is placed on management and technical training.

    Continued focus on management without effective leadership will increase the demand by employees for collective action and could result in re-regulation of industrial relations, and who controls the workers – management or unions – will be an issue at the upcoming national elections. If the outcome is greater union influence and more centralized control, managers will be likely to counter with adversarial and negative legal-based strategies to extract as much flexibility as they can from their employees. If industrial relations are deregulated further, managers will have to demonstrate that their employees are better off than they would be under a union-dominated and centralized system. And the way to both minimize the adverse effects of re-regulation, and show employees they are better of in a more flexible work environment is through improved, effective leadership. The bottom line is that if the attitudes and actions of negative bosses do not change, employees will demand a return to collective action, union influence and centralized control.

    It is interesting to note Quentin Jones’s comments that many bosses are realizing they need to change. So far we have seen little evidence that the ‘many’ are sincere in their attempts, except perhaps to believe they meet their development needs by sending their staff to short-term, feel-good seminars by ‘charismatic’ presenters who profess that the intricacies of leadership can be learnt in a morning or afternoon classroom session including tea and coffee breaks! This unfortunately demonstrates that managers, perhaps for understandable reasons and not through their own fault, often do not understand what good leadership involves and that it takes time and effort and continuing learning to develop.

    Of particular concern is that in many organisations we see little involvement by senior management when it comes to ensuring that junior managers or potential new managers attend worthwhile leadership development programs. Individuals choose the training they believe beneficial without the wisdom or experience to realise what would be more important, not just for themselves, but the people who they will be leading and of course the organisation itself.

    For practical, in-depth real learning about leadership contact us here at The Leadership Academy.

    Peter McDougall
    July 2004