The global leadership selection and consultancy firm Borderless has just published its global survey of 1,000 senior executives on leadership development.
Using the respondents' definition of leadership ("the act of taking ownership for business results delivered by people"), the report "supports a call for a more balanced approach to leadership development, which stands on two pillars: the development of skills to visualize, plan and monitor business results, and the development of interpersonal (‘people’) skills to deliver them".
Accordingly the survey asks respondents to assess the effectiveness with which these skills and attributes are developed in organisations. The findings present a mixed, and in parts troubling, picture.
Leadership development in organisations is considered to be poor (44% of respondents) or ineffective (54%) according to those surveyed. 29% were not aware of their organisation having any kind of leadership coaching or mentoring programme.
Nearly 60% are dissatisfied with their organisation's investment in leadership development.
Top Leadership Challenges
- Managing change and innovation (31%)
- Ensuring people take personal accountability and ownership (27%)
- Addressing a silo mentality (17%)
In response to these, the top 6 leadership skills they considered to be required to lead organisations and meet these challenges effectively were:
- Strategic thinking (53%)
- Communication (49%)
- Decision-making (36%)
- Motivating others (33%)
- Emotional intelligence (32%)
- Coaching and mentoring (25%)
They all relate to inter-personal effectiveness and the balance required to be struck between these soft skills and business acumen. To be effective leaders, these skills need to be developed and given the opportunity to be practiced and fine-tuned.
However, many respondents considered that their organisations lacked a focus on leadership development and considered it merely as "nice to have" rather than a strategic imperative. They reported that their organisations tended to hire in leadership skills in senior executives from outside rather than growing and advancing these skills from within the organisation. This over reliance on 'hiring in' can be significantly demotivating to those with leadership potential who may see the lack of promotion opportunity as compounding the lack of development provision.
Of those organisations providing leadership development, two-thirds of leadership development participation is optional. In few other professions would it be considered acceptable that people may occupy senior positions in organisations - responsible for profitability, growth and jobs - without the skills development that accompany them.
Successful Leadership Development
In the first place, and consistent with other surveys of this type in recent years, the majority (56%) consider that support from top management is a critical success factor in effective leadership development in organisations. Importantly they comment that this should not just be "parked in HR". Supporting this they consider that there should be an organisational focus on people and talent management in the organisation and sufficient resources allocated to it.
80% of those surveyed report that coaching is effective in leadership development but that there is room for improvement. Nearly a third of organisations had no coaching or mentoring support in place at all for leadership development and surprisingly only 36% used external coaches or a mix of internal and external coaches for this work. The need to use better qualified and more experienced coaches was identified. In particular, in order to enhance the quality of tomorrow's leaders, leadership development programmes should be grounded in real-life work (and should not just comprise additional tasks for busy executives to complete).
The Borderless report, 2016 Survey of Leadership Development, is available in full here.