We will forgive you if you think we have a recent and growing crisis in leadership development. We don’t mean to say the leadership gap is not real. It is impacting business today.
The leadership skills gap is not a recent phenomenon. It was just as much a problem fifty years ago as today. Leadership styles and methods have changed, but the gap still exists.
In 2014, 30% of businesses in a McKinsey report said they had “failed to exploit” international opportunities because they didn’t have the leadership talent to capitalize on them. Companies are spending up to $11,000 per participant on leadership development and increasing spending 10% this year Yet 60% companies report that their people don’t have the commercial acumen and business judgment to lead their organizations.
The reason for the gap varies, depending on who is describing it and from what perspective. If you listen carefully and try not to get wrapped up in fad thinking, common threads emerge.
- Promoting the wrong people. Many companies persist in promoting top performers in one role into a new leadership role with little thought to whether that person has what it takes to be a leader. Leadership potential is much rarer than we think. Gallup says only 10% of people have the required traits.
- Expensive training doesn’t create great leaders. It takes years to develop leaders. Training and education are only the beginning.
- HR leaders and business leaders have not yet figured out who is responsible for developing leaders. In top-performing companies, executives spend lots of time developing others, but in too many organizations it is an HR problem.
- Experience makes leaders. Only if it includes mentoring and development. Experience without coaching only creates coping mechanisms.
Successful methods vary, but they have common characteristics:
- HR and business collaborate and align their efforts to the business strategy.
- Business leaders take responsibility for leadership development and lead the effort.
- Coaching and mentoring are built into the organizational culture.
If we know leadership development success depends on ongoing coaching and mentoring why isn’t everyone doing it?
It’s hard to manage. Even if you can get everyone in agreement, real barriers remain. One of those is technology.
Trying to manage a comprehensive mentoring and coaching program is difficult enough without software getting in the way. We had tools fifteen years ago, but they were so cumbersome users rarely adopted them. Even if people were coaching well, there were no easy way to measure progress or outcomes.
With today’s mobile applications and consumer-grade software, we can now remove the physical barriers to effective leadership development. Removing those resistance will make it much easier for you to do the organizational development work that will result in a robust leadership pipeline.
We regard these as the minimum tools necessary to manage an effective leadership development pipeline.
- Career planning and development software linked to your LMS and other learning resources. The platforms should be so well integrated that no human intervention is needed to transfer information.
- Succession management tools. This must be a visual tool that users can access from any device. Executives should be able to see gaps in the leadership pipeline at a glance, and to assess readiness without navigating to another view.
- Mentoring software is now available from many sources. Seek a solution that enables busy executives to make quick notations on any device without interrupting the flow of their activities. Anything painful to use will be a resistance point. Integrate your mentoring software with your succession management and development applications.
- Solutions now exist that passively collect information from scheduling software like Outlook about meetings, informal training, and coaching sessions. If you can devise transparent methods that protect employees’ privacy it may be a useful tool.
Technology alone will not change your culture, but it can remove obstacles preventing change. We urge you to explore how you can implement technology that will take the pain out of coaching and mentoring the next generation of leaders.
1. Ghemawat, Pankaj. “Developing Global Leaders.” McKinsey Quarterly. June 2012.
Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.