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What Works - 2016

Borderless Research℠ (http// recently published the results of their 2016 Leadership Development Survey. Roughly 1000 senior executives in a range of industries offered their assessment of the current state of leadership development. The key findings included:

  • Being able to adapt to changes in strategic direction (34%) and having enough capable leaders (29%) are the top two internal challenges faced by organizations.

  • Leadership Development is believed to be a main driver for ensuring delivery of business results (43%) and business growth (20%).

  • Respondents cite the following 3 main leadership challenges:

  • managing change and innovation (31%)

  • ensuring that people take personal accountability and ownership (27%)

  • silo mentality (17%)

  • A large majority (nearly 60%) are dissatisfied with their organization’s investment in leadership development activities, and more than 65% state that the level of their organization’s investment in these activities has, in recent years, declined or stagnated.

  • Nearly half of respondents (44%) characterize leadership development in their organizations as poor, and more than half (54%) describe it as ineffective.

  • 29% of respondents are not aware of their organization having any kind of leadership coaching or mentoring program.

  • A majority (56%) believe support from top management to be a critical success factor for ensuring effective leadership development within organizations.

After studying the data, it is easy to reach the conclusion that the executives acknowledge the need to have capable leadership to handle the increasingly complex strategic challenges they face. Their satisfaction with their current leadership development efforts is low and seen as low priority. Instead, increasingly, they look to hire in talent from the outside. This sends a message to the talent inside the organization that perhaps the best way to advance your career is to take your talent elsewhere. Also, I have seen very difficult problems created by poor on-boarding. When a leader is brought in from the outside, he/she needs to understand the culture and values of the organization they are joining. Too many times, I have seen them try to lead the way they did in their past company. The conflict and disruption it creates in their new workplace with their new team is considerable. There are great advantages to growing your own talent as General Electric has shown. Leadership development efforts have failed to deliver results that give senior leaders the confidence to devote the resources necessary to build their leadership bench strength.

I have been in the leadership development business for nearly thirty years. I was not surprised by the survey results. I was disappointed in them. My passion has always been to help people and organizations reach their potential. The two are inseparable in business. A company will only do as well as their talent performs. Talent rarely performs better than the systems and culture encourage. Leadership development efforts are a win win that produces real results, as well as being a magnet that attracts the best and the brightest.

I have been very fortunate to have partnered with clients that saw their leadership development activities as a strategic necessity for their business. The majority of their senior team grew up in the business and new talent is in the pipeline!

Here are some of my recommendations:

  • The leadership development efforts should be aligned with specific business needs. When I use the Leadership Challenge, we identify current business challenges to focus on during the sessions.

  • If you want top executives to support the efforts, you need to start there. They need to embrace the program as if it was their own. Because it must be if it is to be effective.

  • The war for talent is heating up. We have known for some time that there will be a leadership gap when us baby boomers retire. That time is near. Competition for scarce talent is going to be tough, and great leaders are going to demand top dollars. Grow your own. It makes business sense.

  • Integrate and align your leadership development tactics. They should be seen as a strategic response to business needs rather than a cafeteria offering of discrete activities.

  • Make sure your development activities support and embrace your culture and values.

  • Companies have a right to expect their talent increases in value each year. If your people don’t grow, the company won’t either. Participation in leadership development efforts should not be optional. Of course, that puts the demand on us to make it a great investment of their time.

For those of you I have partnered with, I would love to talk about this over a coffee and get your insights. And what you are planning to do. For those I would love to partner with, I’d offer the same coffee and share a bit about what I have learned and how I can help.

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