Family and friends back in fashion as business leaders opt to work shorter hours

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 1 February 2000




(2000), "Family and friends back in fashion as business leaders opt to work shorter hours", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 21 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Family and friends back in fashion as business leaders opt to work shorter hours

Family and friends back in fashion as business leaders opt to work shorter hours

Keywords: Executives, Working hours, Management attitudes, Quality of working life

Younger business leaders are working fewer hours, prioritizing time with family and friends, shunning weekend working and early starts - and yet still managing to achieve the same results as their older rivals, according to KPMG Consulting's annual survey of business leaders. But the survey also suggests that newer business leaders are less confident in their leadership and communication ability and are increasingly shy of the media. This is adding to the negative and anonymous image of UK business. Half of the respondents were unable to nominate anyone from their peer group worthy of the title "best UK business leader" and instead they increasingly look to the USA to find inspiration. The findings are based on a survey of more than 200 board directors of companies with an annual turnover of over »50million.

Shorter hours and smart working

It seems that business leaders are heeding advice that overwork can be bad, both for individuals and for companies. While 60 per cent of the older generation of leaders work more than 55 hours a week, only 49 per cent of the younger generation do so. Additionally, the younger generation is less likely to arrive at work before 7.30 a.m. (13 per cent compared to 23 per cent) and less likely to drop into the office at the weekend (32 per cent compared with 44 per cent). Interestingly, this younger relaxed approach is not to the detriment of business success. In the last financial year, companies run by both the older and newer generations achieved exactly the same average profit growth of 10 per cent.

There is other evidence of a more easygoing attitude among younger business leaders; 17 per cent of the younger generation regularly wear casual clothes to the office, while the figure falls to 7 per cent for the older generation. A relaxed individualism is also reflected in the younger group's choice of transport - 51 per cent aspire to driving a sports car, against 23 per cent for the older group. Both groups name a Jaguar as their dream car.

The survey also suggests that not all time away from the office is spent socialising with family and friends - work colleagues are important as well. It seems that social networking - - or even the "old school tie" - continues to be an important part of business life.

Perhaps surprisingly, use of contacts, or "knowing the right people", was deemed to be a far more important way of rising up the corporate ladder for younger leaders, than for the older group (51 per cent compared to 29 per cent). Nor is this socialising simply work-related. The latest generation of business leaders seems to favour the formation of "power couples" with partners involved at a managerial level. Some 26 per cent of younger business leaders have partners who hold managerial positions, compared to just 16 per cent of the older group.


The report suggests that younger business leaders are much more reluctant to deal with the media than their older counterparts. In the last six months only 12 per cent of younger business leaders had been interviewed by a broadsheet newspaper compared to 23 per cent of the older group and only 6 per cent had been on television compared to 14 per cent. Overall, 74 per cent of business leaders had never been interviewed on the radio, 72 per cent had never appeared on TV, 74 per cent had never spoken to a broadsheet newspaper, and 86 percent had never had contact with a tabloid newspaper. One explanation for this growing media-shyness may be a growing fear of being misunderstood. But also important may be a lack of confidence in communication skills among younger business leaders. Only 6 per cent of this group expressed confidence in their communication ability - compared to 17 per cent of the older group. Only 5 per cent are sure of their ability to motivate others - compared to 14 per cent of the older group.

This lack of confidence also comes through in country comparisons. Sixty-four per cent of respondents believed that the US produces the best business leaders, against just 9 per cent naming the UK. When asked "Which world company would you most like to run?", seven out of the top ten named were from the USA. When asked to name the best UK business leader of 1999, Richard Branson headed the rankings with 33 per cent of votes - 49 per cent of respondents could not think of a single contender for the title.

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