University of Portsmouth Business School (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Page: 5796 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
This paper investigates competencies that organisations seek in graduate recruits for their current business needs and for future needs. The research purpose is to inform educational practice, design and development. Organisations invest in graduate entrants to sustain a pipeline of effective leaders spending an estimated $30 billion worldwide on leadership development (Reade and Thomas 2004). Yet 63% of organisations are dissatisfied with their leaders while 48% report that improving the quality of leadership is a strategic priority (Boatman, Wellins & Selkovitz 2011).
This suggests divergence between university development programmes and employer expectations. Debates about the role of universities in developing emergent leadership and employability factors continue (Tymon 2011), while business schools need to teach what matters in industry to equip graduates with ‘real’ world skills (Dries & Pepermans, 2012; Pfeffer and Fong, 2004). In business schools we teach new paradigm theories of leadership; such as servant leadership, distributed leadership, and other followership models which reflect contemporary perceptions of dynamic organisations with flatter, participative structures. This research probes employer perspectives on the skills, knowledge and behaviours valued as important to see whether employers prefer more traditional styles of leadership. For in times of uncertainty employees often seek safety and security in powerful leaders (Raelin 2011) termed the romance of leadership, attributing success to leaders on little evidence (Bligh and Schyns 2007).
A mixed-method approach seeks to identify emergent leadership competencies that employers require of graduates. Methods include: focus groups, survey, interviews and in-depth cases studies with private, public and not for profit organisations. Initial data analysis indicates employers anticipate changing future needs that profile leadership traits emphasising agility, adaptability, risk taking and confidence to break the rules. This may indicate a desire for the business buccaneer which can conflict with university understandings of responsible and ethical leadership.

This study contributes to topical discussions on the integrity of academic independence bounded by the shifting demands of managerial interests. The business school’s role in developing graduates is critically examined through employers’ language in use, and societal expectations of higher education.

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Dries, N. & Pepermans, R. (2012). How to identify leadership potential: development and testing of a consensus model. Human Resource Management, 51 (3):361-385
Pfeffer, J. & Fong, C. (2004). The Business School Business: Some Lessons from the US experience Journal of Management Studies, 41(8), 1501-1520
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Tymon, A. (2011). The student perspective on employability, Studies in Higher Education, online pp. 1-16, ISSN 0307-5079, doi 0.1080/03075079.2011.604408
Leadership, development, education, graduates, employment.