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A Leader Development Model: A Mirror Before Window Critical Approach

Gary Walpole Orcid Logo

Swansea University Author: Gary Walpole Orcid Logo


AbstractPurposeThis working paper outlines an approach to developing leaders of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in a region of the UK, Wales. The paper will outline the conceptual framework, developed by the author, that prescribed the order of the content and pedagogic approach of the ‘Leading G...

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ISBN: 978-1-900862-29-5
Published: London ISBE 2016
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Abstract: AbstractPurposeThis working paper outlines an approach to developing leaders of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in a region of the UK, Wales. The paper will outline the conceptual framework, developed by the author, that prescribed the order of the content and pedagogic approach of the ‘Leading Growth’ programme. The conceptual framework suggested leader development content should be introduced in an order that focuses the development of leaders’ knowledge and skills on leading Self, leading People, leading Organisations and leading Growth (SPOG). The conceptual framework also suggests content is introduced to participants within a critical perspective. The paper will report on the data, collected from 181 participants across six cohorts, to attempt to comment on the value and impact of the programme. The paper aims to make a contribution to the literature around leader development models or frameworks and a contribution to literature around the suggestion that enhancing leadership skills in small firms can lead to increased productivity. It is important to understand the characteristics and context of SMEs, in Wales. The small business sector has become increasingly important to the UK and Welsh economy. The importance of small firms or Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to the UK has increased in recent years. SMEs account for 48% of private sector employment in the UK. Between 2003 and 2013, the proportion of employment within SMEs increased by 2.2% in Wales and by 1.8% in the UK. More than 60% of private sector employment in Wales is within SMEs. The majority of active enterprises in Wales are SMEs and they account for 99.3% of all enterprises, of which micro enterprises (0-9 employees) account for 94.5% of enterprises (National Statistics, 2013). An increasing body of evidence (Bloom et al, 2014) suggests that the heterogeneity of management practices across firms is a major contributor to different productivity levels. “In summary, management does indeed appear to be important in accounting for the large differences in cross-country Total Factor Productivity (TFP) as well as within-country differences.” Bloom et al (2014, p4). Research in the UK by BIS (2014) stated “The research also shows that variations in leadership and management skills are associated with variations in SME performance” BIS (2014, p6). The Chief Executive of BAE Systems, advised “Well-managed firms grow faster, make more profits, and hold onto their best staff. And yet, whilst some UK companies are among the best managed in the world, generally our management skills tend to fall below international standards” (UKCES, 2016). It therefore appears that productivity in UK SMEs is still seen as a challenge for UK policy makers. Approach/MethodologyThis paper reports on both qualitative and qualitative data collected from delegates that participated in the Leading Growth programme. One hundred and eighty-one leaders of small firms took part in the ten-month programme, from the 110 businesses, across six cohorts. The programme ran between early 2013 and mid-2015. The majority of the delegates were leaders of micro-firms with a minority employed in in small and medium-sized enterprises. The delegates were aged between 30 and 65 from across all sectors.The progamme data collection model contained; a ‘pre-programme’ and a ‘post-programme’ survey, which aimed to collect data on the development or ‘distance travelled’ of each individual as well as the efficacy of the programme, the pedagogy employed and the content introduced. The programme also collected ‘workshop feedback forms’ to gather data on the perceived value of each workshop including the theory introduced and pedagogy employed. The programme also conducted a series of semi-structured interviews that aimed to obtain qualitative data from delegates around the perceived value of the programme, the pedagogy employed and the theories and models introduced. The quantitative data was collected through a survey at program inception and program end. This working paper will briefly outline elements of the quantitative data collected from delegates in the programme surveys and highlight initial themes identified from the qualitative data. The paper aimed to obtain feedback from colleagues through the drafting of this paper and acknowledges its many weaknesses.Findings The Leading Growth delegates were very satisfied with the programme, 72% stated the programme exceeded their expectations. In terms of the time delegates invested in the programme 61% described it as a very good use of their time and 30% advised it was a good use of their time, with only 9% suggesting it was useful. The program had a positive effect on levels of well-being, with approximately 95% either agreeing or strongly agreeing that they felt more confident in their leadership role. In terms of productivity 84% agreed or strongly agreed that they had increased the quality of time spent in the workplace. The programme also had a positive impact on confidence levels with 95% either agreeing or strongly agreeing that they felt a more confident leader after the programme. In terms of organizational or firm level measures Leading Growth had a positive impact on some key metrics. The data suggests 52% saw a growth in employee numbers, 48% experienced turnover growth and 30% reported an increase in profit. In terms of the reported increase in employee numbers an average of three new employees per firm were reported. Other reported organizational level impact indicators were obtained with 55% suggesting they were more productive and 40% suggested the organization was more strategic in its outlook. Value/ originalityThis paper contributes a leader development model or conceptual framework, the Leading Growth SPOG model, with data from 181 delegates confirming its efficacy. The presented data also suggests that the development of leaders of small firms can lead to productivity gains. LimitationsThis paper acknowledges the limitations of the relatively small dataset and it might not be possible to draw generalizable conclusions. Paper Type - working paper.
Keywords: Leadership Development, Management Development, Small Firm Growth
College: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences