Atten-shun! Why military leaders are the most ‘brain-friendly’

23 November 2012
It seems the stereotypical yelling and order-barking drill sergeants in the army are no more. A study released yesterday showed the armed forces have the best leaders in the UK when it comes to managing change. The research, carried out by Orion Partners, a management consultancy, reveals strong leadership in the armed forces has helped 49 per cent of staff understand why change is good for them, compared to a UK average of just 35 per cent. It suggests that this profession’s leadership is most ‘brain friendly’ when it comes to managing change. In other words, they understand why their employees react the way they do and use this knowledge to manage their teams more effectively. They ask their employees lots of questions about how they’re feeling, which minimises feelings of threat and promotes feelings of reward and helps drive better performances. This is despite deep spending cuts and organisational changes in the Ministry of Defence. The 2010 Spending Review stipulated an 8 per cent cut in defence spending by 2015 and has resulted in 4,200 redundancies this year alone. In contrast, the civil service - also in the midst of upheaval - has the least effective leaders at explaining change. Only 23 per cent of civil servants understand why changes to the civil service are good for them personally. This is not helped by an unprecedented turnover of senior civil servants, with a majority of ministers now in posts for longer periods than their permanent secretaries – staff turnover rates in some departments are now as high as 30 per cent. The turnover at the top is having a destructive effect on the quality of leadership in the civil service, which could be very damaging to the success of the reforms. The study concludes while armed forces staff are embracing the reforms, the civil service has ‘brain-fried’ leaders who are not explaining the changes to employees, which increases negative feelings and makes it difficult for it to overcome problems associated with deep spending cuts and major organisational upheavals.
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