The biggest sign a company isn’t serious about developing leaders

I’m sure most of you will agree that the need for great leadership is even more acute in 2022 than it was in 2019.

Whether it’s the impact of The Great Resignation, the scourge of employee burnout, severe talent shortages or the need for DEI, there’s no lack of challenges requiring top-notch leadership. But here’s the thing: I’ve yet to encounter a CEO that says they’ve got more than enough great leaders.

Leadership is still not taken seriously enough

It’s my theory that for all the need for great leadership, far too many companies just aren’t taking the issue seriously enough.

Here’s a quick test for whether your company is really serious about developing leaders: Look at the money your company spent on developing leaders in 2019. You can calculate this as dollars spent per leader if your headcount has changed significantly in the past few years. Or, if you want to look at it another way, just calculate the hours of development, coaching, and mentoring you’ve signed-off per leader and compare 2019 to 2022 using those figures. Now, look at the equivalent money/hours by the end of 2022. If your 2022 number is less than your 2019 number, you’ve got a problem.

Why the problem?

 If companies claim to invest in leadership, they shouldn’t be getting this result. The fact lots do (when the test isn’t even that strenuous), is a worry.

It’s doubly worrying because the money and time companies spent developing leaders in 2019 was already inadequate.

 So what’s happening? It’s a difficult question to answer. We all know that there are studies-a-plenty showing the clear need to develop leaders in 2022.

Earlier this year, for example, SHRM released its State of the Workplace Report. It asked both HR professionals and U.S. workers to rate the effectiveness of 24 different workplace actions. While companies were rated as having done fairly well on issues like navigating the pandemic and giving workers good health care coverage, developing more effective people managers was the lowest-rated area for U.S. workers.

Some 77% of HR professionals reported that one of their priorities was improving the soft skills (e.g., empathy, compassion, communication) of people managers to better meet the expectations of the current workforce. But the test outlined above will show whether that’s reality or just idle talk.

Soft skills are still lacking

The one thing that is clear however (especially from Leadership IQ’s studies), is that the soft skills mentioned in the SHRM study are still lacking.

For example, in The State Of Leadership Development, we learned that only 20% of employees say their leader always takes an active role in helping them to grow and develop their full potential. And only 27% say their leader always encourages and recognizes suggestions for improvement. Further, we know from 1 million people taking a test on leadership styles that a majority of leaders are using the wrong style to achieve optimal engagement and performance from their teams.

Article Continues Below

There are, of course, differences between well and poorly-designed management training programs. In a report on management training programs we learned that only 33% of managers/leaders are highly skilled at managing remote employees, and only 43% of managers/leaders are adept at delivering constructive feedback that changes behavior.

Clearly, in 2022, any program that doesn’t address foundational topics like that is doomed to deliver underwhelming results.

But before a company can deliver great leader development, it has to actually deliver something.

There was a need for robust training back in 2019, but the need is even more serious in 2022. Either we can wring our hands over employee burnout, the Great Resignation, and all the rest, or we can expend the time and resources to fix those problems.

 

 

Mark Murphy is the CEO of Leadership IQ and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include Hiring For Attitude, Hundred Percenters, HARD Goals, and Managing Narcissists, Blamers, Dramatics and More. Mark’s groundbreaking leadership studies have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and U.S. News & World Report. Mark has also appeared on CNN, NPR, CBS News Sunday Morning, and ABC’s 20/20. He’s trained leaders at the United Nations, Harvard Business School, Microsoft, Mastercard, and hundreds more.

Topics