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The untapped power of UK management could guide us through uncertain times

The untapped power of UK management could guide us through uncertain times

Credit: Alamy

Chartered Management Institute

6 min read Partner content

As it celebrates its 75th anniversary, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is making a compelling case for a national strategy that empowers the UK’s leaders to tackle the defining challenges of our time.

It is perhaps apt that “ambitious” is the word that best summarises the goals of the CMI. After all, this is an institution whose members represent the UK’s movers and shakers; a driven and determined group in pursuit of individual and corporate success. Ambition is in the CMI’s nature.

Even so, the scale of the organisation’s ambition is impressive; it sees itself as uniquely placed to help address some of the great economic, social and environmental challenges we currently face.  Anthony Painter, the CMI’s Director of Policy and External Affairs, says it has a crucial role to play in everything from navigating Brexit to managing the financial impact of the war in Ukraine.

“We're in the midst of a climate emergency and the reality is, we have long-standing challenges in the UK, in economic terms and around productivity, skills and inequality,” he says. “We are going to need enormous reserves of character and capability to take on these challenges, whether we're in a business environment and organisational setting, public service, the civil service, or national government making major policy decisions.”

“How we approach management and leadership is not just something that happens by chance, but something that we deliberately develop as a society in a whole myriad of ways. And it’s going to severely impact our collective ability to transition through this challenging time. So the CMI’s agenda lies at the heart of how we face the future.”

And if anyone is in a position to make good on big ambitions, it’s the CMI. As it celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2022, the organisation is reflecting on a remarkable history of developing and advocating for leaders, as well as shaping leadership itself. 

“The CMI has been critical in demonstrating that management is a profession; one that requires formal skills and development in order to be effective,” Painter explains. “The CMI has been very good at articulating how and why management matters, both for individual organisations and to make a difference to those crucial macro agendas.”

The organisation has been instrumental in establishing a robust set of standards for leadership and management, developing qualifications to formally assess and protect these standards. At the pinnacle of these standards, is the Chartered Management award, which only CMI can grant. In its 75 years, it has worked with universities, colleges and workplaces to help management foster personal effectiveness, good organisational performance and great interpersonal skills underpinned by values, ethics and culture.

“The CMI has always been at the forefront of how managers and management practice needs to develop into the future, as well as how that can be supported by government policy and employer investment,” Painter adds. “And we'll continue to work very hard on all of those factors in the years to come.”

As part of this work and in recognition of its milestone anniversary, the institute has identified what it calls “barriers” to effective modern management and is prioritising them in its research, training and the practical support it offers members. The five barriers – socio-economic background, ethnicity, disability, gender and age – relate directly to diversity and inclusion, making clear once again the CMI’s firm belief that it has a role to play in tackling some of the UK’s most pressing issues.

“We’re well-placed to continue the strides made on diversity and inclusion by the social movements that have garnered international attention in recent years, while playing a key role in the UK’s crucial levelling up agenda,” explains Painter.

The barriers will be among the factors explored by CMI President Lord Mark Price as he heads up a council of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs, broadcasters, writers and creatives throughout this milestone year. Together, the 18-strong panel will share expertise and discuss the issues they believe need addressing in order to ensure management and leadership works for everyone. The organisation will also be calling for action on these issues from national government.

We’ve helped managers adapt, because management is about resilience

“If you look at the Levelling Up whitepaper, the Net Zero strategy, reviews into business productivity and other key reports, you see reference to – and an appreciation of – the importance of high-quality management and leadership as being core to meeting our future objectives in the context of all those fundamental strategies,” says Painter. “So it’s clear that the Government is extremely committed to developing management and leadership.

“However, this commitment is fragmented across all these different strategies; what hasn't happened yet is a fundamental, coherent and comprehensive strategy setting out what we do as a nation on management and leadership. How do we develop it as a critical national challenge for UK plc, UK public services and UK society? How can we give it the attention and support that it really needs in order to develop the most capable group of managers and leaders that we possibly can to lead us through the challenges of the coming years?”

Painter is particularly hopeful a more coherent approach would help persuade SMEs to prioritise management and leadership. 

“SMEs employ almost two-thirds of the working population, so what happens in SMEs touches people's lives contributes to national productivity in a way that enables us to invest in the future,” says Painter. “But SMEs continually under-invest in their leadership teams and development of managers.

“These are organisations with a lot of pressure on their resources and it’s easy to de-prioritise management in the short term, despite the fact that this has enormous impacts in the long term. So I think addressing this is actually one of the critical national challenges – and a coherent national approach to management and leadership could not only help emphasise its importance, but support businesses and individuals on that journey.”

In case any doubt remained that the CMI can make a big impact on big issues, Painter has a recent example of how the organisation supported individuals and organisations through one of the most significant challenges of current times: the pandemic. 

“Over the past two years, the CMI has provided a suite of resources to help organisations manage and navigate the many challenges that the pandemic has presented,” he says. “For example, hybrid working, managing in the remote setting, managing wellbeing and the welfare of employees and coping with this phenomenal pace of change.

“We’ve helped managers adapt, because management is about resilience – and that has been truly tested during the pandemic. Managers and the people they lead have had to be incredibly agile over the past couple of years and those with the strongest core managerial capability are those who actually have been able to adapt better.”

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