Developing leaders to drive financial performance and operational excellence has always been important. However, given the unrelenting pace of technological change and globalization, plus an anemic world economy, organizations now need leaders who can effectively respond to constantly evolving business opportunities and threats, and chart a path to sustainable growth.
In a new global survey of 7,500 global leaders by Korn Ferry, executives identified accelerating innovation and improving profitability among the top three business priorities in their organizations. Yet these same executives questioned whether their current Leadership is up to the challenge: Only 17 percent of those surveyed were confident their organizations have the right leadership to deliver on their strategic business plans.
Faced with this challenge, executives listed the need to develop leaders who can drive strategic change as the most important Leadership Development priority for their organizations.
But another challenge emerged: Survey respondents said they were unhappy with their current leadership development plans. More than 50 percent of executives ranked their leadership development ROI as “fair” to “very poor.” These organizations said that if they could start over, they would retain only half of their current leadership development approach.
What needs to be adjusted? Developing leaders to drive strategic change requires a different focus on leadership development, survey respondents said.
In general, they said they need more development that deals with the contemporary issues they are facing in their organizations as opposed to a more abstract, top-down, conceptual approach. And many indicated a preference for “journey based” development using experiences inside the organization as opposed to time-bound or event-based programs outside the company.
So what gets in the way of launching better leadership development? The survey respondents identified “lack of executive sponsorship” as the top barrier to successful global leadership development, followed closely by “lack of budget” and “lack of alignment between stakeholders.”
But the need for top leadership to focus on and invest in new forms of leadership development is clear: Successful leadership development will be a major factor in differentiating the winners from the losers in the years ahead.
The survey respondents said the problem is threefold: First, confidence in current leadership to drive change is low; second, there are gaps throughout the leadership pipeline; and finally, engagement in strategic change among leaders outside of the C-suite is lacking.
The first report in Korn Ferry’s “Real World Leadership” global report series makes four major recommendations for leadership strategy:
- Connect leadership strategy with business strategy: Organizations need to identify the kinds of leaders required to execute their strategies and then build their development/recruiting approaches around those profiles. Part of that exercise is to include a greater variety of voices and perspectives in the leadership pipeline.
- Embed change throughout the organization: The entire organization needs to be enlisted in change initiatives. Effective and significant organizational change and growth happen only when a large number of people collectively align and engage.
- Make leadership development programs contextual and relevant: Organizations should orient programs around current business and strategic issues. This will generate engagement and fresh approaches to business challenges.
- Encourage a sense of purpose and mission: Individuals and organizations are far more motivated and energized when they are connected to a higher purpose or feel they are providing a service to the world, their customers, and their community.
Adapted from Korn Ferry’s “Real World Leadership” report. To learn more about how to develop leaders who can drive real change, click here.