Article main image
Sep 24, 2014

Leaders play an essential role in meeting business goals and profitability targets, as well as delivering service and retaining talent.

However, according to a nationwide survey released by Aon Hewitt, only 12 percent of respondents said their leaders are extremely effective at meeting business goals.

What’s more, just 14 percent believe their leaders are extremely effective at meeting profitability targets, 17 percent say the same holds true for delivering service, and only 7 percent believe their leaders are extremely effective at retaining talent.

More trust a stranger over their boss

Another survey recently conducted by HEC School of Management, the Community of European Management Schools, and Harvard Business Review uncovered more troubling news.

About 20 percent of respondents said they had a high level of trust in society, but less than 4 percent had high levels of trust in their company. More concerning is that nearly 60 percent of those surveyed trust a stranger significantly more than they trust their boss, who only garnered trust from about 42 percent of respondents.

A clue to what’s driving these dismal leadership evaluations may be found in a study from CareerBuilder. The study found most U.S. companies are not training their people before moving them into leadership. In fact, 58 percent of managers in the study said they hadn’t received any management training when they began managing others.

Given these results, it’s not surprising that 41 percent of workers in this study didn’t rate their direct supervisors as doing a good job either.

New skills means improved productivity

Employees in the CareerBuilder study rated the performance of their corporate leaders even more severely. Only 50 percent felt their leadership teams were doing a good or great job and 23 percent described their performance as poor or very poor. Problems cited with corporate leaders included insufficient communication, unrealistic workloads, and a lack of training and employee development.

This is troubling news — especially at a time when we need strong, confident leadership more than ever. However, we can’t be too surprised, or hold leaders accountable for their failings, if we aren’t willing to invest in management training programs to develop current and future leaders.

Management and leadership are skills, and they must be learned and continuously improved upon to be effective and relevant.

“Company executives must develop new leadership skills in order to improve workforce productivity and stimulate engagement,” said Amy Mills, Vice President with Aon Hewitt. “They must invest in developing middle managers who can bridge the gap between leadership strategy and employee actions, and are best positioned to effect change. In fact, our survey shows a crisis in confidence that corporate leaders will be able to reposition their companies for profitable growth and create an engaging work environment.”

Here’s what needs to be developed

According to Aon Hewitt, leaders must be more creative in this post-recession environment and develop these capabilities:

  • Focus on the most valuable talent and pay for performance;
  • Demonstrate speed and agility;
  • Develop middle management;
  • Increase employee engagement; and,
  • Develop leadership resiliency.

The post originally appeared in a somewhat different form on