Some Sobering Reasons Why We Need to Train Our Leaders, Too

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.

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“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

Michelle M. Smith

A highly accomplished international speaker, strategist, and author on performance improvement; Michelle is a respected authority on leadership, workplace culture, employee engagement and talent. She’s published and presented more than 1,100 articles and lectures and is a trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful organizations and governments.

Named as one of the Ten Best and Brightest Women in the incentive industry, a Change Maker, Top Idea Maven, and President’s Award winner, Michelle is a highly accomplished industry leader who has worked in every facet of recognition and incentives, both domestically and internationally.

She has appeared on Fox Television and the BBC, and been featured in magazines like Fortune, Business Week, Inc., and Return on Performance; as well as national radio programs, and contributions to the books “Bull Market” by Seth Godin, “Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk,” and “Social Media Isn’t Social.”

Michelle is President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association and Past President of the FORUM for People Performance at Northwestern University. She’s Vice President, Research for the Business Marketing Association and serves on the Boards of the Incentive Federation and the Incentive & Engagement Solutions Council. She was also the Founder and Chair of the Editorial Board of Return on Performance Magazine.