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QUESTIONABLE: A third of UK employees don't trust the leadership skills of their superiors

NEARLY ONE in three (31%) UK employees have no confidence in the leadership of their company to create and run a modern digital infrastructure, according to the Advanced Trends Report 2017.

The new findings will come as a blow to many CEOs as the UK grapples with a changing business landscape that includes Brexit, increased cyber security threats and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The annual Advanced Trends Survey of over 1,000 professionals in UK organisations is the second to be commissioned by British software and services company Advanced. Like the first report, it reveals the state of readiness amongst British businesses in the face of digital disruption and examines the biggest barriers to digital transformation – of which leadership is one.

When asked about the most important attributes for a leader in the digital era, the majority of respondents said leaders should be able to embrace change (82%), think and react with pace (67%) and be able to make bold decisions (57%).

Only 42% felt bosses having a strong digital skill set was important, suggesting employees believe bosses are better off leading the company through change and making high-level decisions that will determine the future success of the company.

“Businesses will not succeed in the digital era without a strong, skilled and admirable leadership team,” says Gordon Wilson, CEO at Advanced. “A lack of confidence will only demotivate employees, thwart productivity and cost businesses money. Ultimately, it will leave leaders trailing behind those that do have the leadership attributes to reimagine their business and embrace the opportunity of the digital era.”

Tom Thackray, CBI Director for Innovation, adds: “We know that businesses’ ability to innovate and embrace the digital era is fundamental to the prosperity of our economy. It is vital that British businesses have confidence in their organisation’s leadership to deliver digital strategies that will support growth and create new business models for the future.”

Gordon concludes: “We are in a tumultuous period of economic uncertainty, and employees will be looking to their leaders for reassurance as Britain leaves the EU. We continue to see mixed feelings from our survey respondents about Brexit – 52% see it as a threat to business survival (compared to 49 % in last year’s report) while 48% see it as an opportunity for growth and prosperity (previously 51%).

"Do leaders have mixed feelings too, or do they actually see Brexit as an opportunity and are not communicating their confidence from the top down?”

Brexit aside, the increased threat of cyber attacks and impending GDPR are enough justification for staff to demand better leadership. Both place new responsibilities upon their leaders to ensure every employee understands how to protect corporate and personal data. The consequences of being breached are serious, and can cost leaders their jobs as seen with TalkTalk and Equifax.

Tom says: “Without strengthened efforts to improve cyber security, the undoubted potential of the UK’s digital economy will be unfulfilled. Cyber resilience is increasingly important for all companies across the economy. They must continue to move from awareness to action, by ensuring cyber security is a board level priority and making the right investments for their digital future.”

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