Good leadership is directly related to productivity. By extension, it should matter to everyone who cares about the state of our economy.

Thursday, 07 February 2013
  • Business

A report by management consultants McKinsey (admittedly back in 2009) looked into leadership in Northern Ireland and found us lagging behind the Republic and other parts of the UK, but it seems to me much of what was flagged up back then hasn't really changed.

The question is why?

Firstly, there is a difference between what makes a good leader and what makes a good manager.

Really a manager is given resources that they have to maximise in terms of efficiency and productivity.

A leader has to create resources, constantly look for the next opportunity and broker networks, particularly important in a knowledge economy.

Professor Jackie McCoy from the University of Ulster says that it's partly a matter of confidence, that, sometimes in Northern Ireland, we are too modest about our achievements and are happy to settle with what we've got, essentially lacking vision.

She calls it the "BMW in the driveway effect".

"A lot of small, reasonably successful, businesses get to a certain stage and they're happy with that level of growth and they don't push any harder outside their comfort zone. That's partly what's holding us back".

Another factor she points to can be the structure within family run businesses, which sometimes are reluctant to let outsiders in, "Not enough firms push share-holding in the business, which can prohibit growth, you've got to think about value creation in the long term."

But she's at pains to point out it's not always about hiring talent in, it's about grooming the talent that's already there.

"Small businesses need to look at how they motivate and reward people.

If someone feels like they have the opportunity to grow, they're more likely to go the extra mile."