Why Kiwi Leaders Stifle Innovation

New Zealand Management, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Why Kiwi Leaders Stifle Innovation


New Zealanders may pride themselves on innovation but in reality the rest of the world is well ahead of us in strong visionary thinking.

That's according to Shaun McCarthy, chair of Human Synergistics Australasia (HSA), whose company has compared the leadership styles of 189 company bosses in New Zealand to those of 5000 top business leaders worldwide--and found them wanting.

"In general terms we have a business culture that limits creativity and reduces people's ability to use their own personal initiative. Where innovation exists it is often confined to certain parts of the organisation and not widespread."

Instead, he says, we have managers who want staff to conform to policies and procedures, compete with peers and work longer hours--and believe these are ideal leadership traits. This reflects a national trend which will inhibit our economy unless we "wake up and make some changes to our business attitudes", says McCarthy.

Leaders can identify which of three leadership styles they most embody--constructive, passive/defensive or aggressive/defensive--by answering a simple questionnaire about management traits, then transferring the resulting scores to a 12-sector diagrammatic tool that is part of the HSA work kit.

Although most managers believe they have a constructive leadership style, this doesn't often match the assessment provided by those they work with. Most executives are seen by their direct reports and peers as far from constructive.

McCarthy notes that many Kiwi bosses have misguided assumptions about human behaviour--like 'aggression will increase productivity' when it almost always creates passivity. …

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