The Urgent Need For Leadership Development

Back in March, I discussed a few takeaways from Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2014 survey. After going through the report again, I think it would be worthwhile to mention some of the other global trends for 2014.

I previously discussed the need to re-skill HR teams, one of the top four (out of 12) global trends that survey respondents perceived as most urgent. I did not, however, discuss the top trend perceived as most urgent by responders — the need to build global leadership.

Fully 38 percent of respondents rated this as “urgent,” 50 percent more than the next trend identified as “urgent.”

Only 16% say they’re ready to respond

At the time of the study, companies reported generally low levels of readiness to respond to the global trends mentioned in the report, and despite the fact that at least 60 percent of respondents identified these global trends as “important” or “urgent,” in all, 36 percent of respondents reported being “not ready” to respond to the trends.

This is a significantly higher percentage than those reporting they were ready to respond to the trends (at only 16 percent). With us now more than half way through 2014, I’m hoping this particular statistic has shifted a bit, but we don’t have that data yet!deloitte-urgency-graph

Why is developing leaders such a hot topic?

We do know that building better leadership is a “hot topic” trend we’ve seen repeated recently in many reports or white papers; it’s certainly not unique to only this report.

But I think that with trends like these, it’s important to reflect on the proposed reasons:

  • Why is building better leadership perceived as so highly important now?
  • Did we have better leadership in the past?
  • Are leaders lacking necessary skills today, or are we simply lacking in an adequate bench of leadership?

Deloitte’s study offers some insightful analysis:

In a world where knowledge doubles every year and skills have a half-life of 2.5 to 5 years, leaders need to constantly develop.”

New challenges for the 21st Century

Consider as well globalization and the speed (not to mention breadth) of technological change and development, which highly fuel this need to constantly develop. Perhaps another point that highlights the reason that “leadership” remains the No. 1 talent issue facing organizations today is that this term encompasses leadership at every level of an organization (no, we’re not just talking about developing the next CEO or the C-Suite pipeline).

Again, from the Deloitte research:

Twenty-first century leadership is different. Companies face new leadership challenges, including developing Millennials and multiple generations of leaders, meeting the demand for leaders with global fluency and flexibility, building the ability to innovate and inspire others to perform, and acquiring new levels of understanding of rapidly changing technologies and new disciplines and fields.”

These skills are in high demand

According to those surveyed in Deloitte’s report, only 13 percent of companies rate themselves “excellent” in providing leadership programs at all levels — new leaders, next-generation leaders, and senior leaders. Furthermore:

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  • Some 66 percent of respondents believe they are “weak” in their ability to develop Millennial leaders (only 5 percent rate themselves as “excellent”);
  • Only 8 percent believe they have “excellent” programs to build global skills and experiences; and,
  • About half (51 percent) of respondents have little confidence in their ability to maintain clear, consistent succession programs.

In terms of skills, Deloitte’s research shows that foundational along with new leadership, these skills are in high demand: business acumen, the ability to collaborate and build cross-functional teams, global cultural agility (the ability to manage diversity and inclusion), creativity, customer-centricity, influence and inspiration, and the ability to develop people and create effective teams.

deloitte-leadership-programs-graph

How to “get ready” to build leadership teams

With this data in mind, we can then ask the question how can organizations “get ready” to address the trend of building global leadership. Deloitte offers four potential starting points:

  1. Engage top executives to develop leadership strategy and actively govern leadership development;
  2. Align and refresh leadership strategies and development to evolving business goals;
  3. Focus on three aspects of developing leaders (develop leaders at all levels, develop global leaders locally, develop a succession mindset); and,
  4. Implement an effective leadership program.

While all of these approaches will likely involve a significant investment of time and resources along with a commitment to leadership from the board and executive team, they are do-able – companies both small and large on our Best Companies to Work For lists are a testament to this!

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at ChinaGorman.com.