Study Finds Emerging Leaders Lack Essential Leadership Skills

study essential leadership skillsBusiness leaders continue to report that lower than acceptable levels of employee engagement and retention are their major concerns as the economy begins to improve. Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton has concluded that the problem is ineffective managers and team leaders. The solution is a total talent management system that identifies, attracts, develops, and retains leaders at all levels. The primary focus must be on selection and development of team leaders and front line mangers.




Unfortunately, according to a Bersin & Associates Report, organizations are not doing this very well.

Consider these facts:

  • “HR leaders rate their first-line managers as their ‘least ready’ workgroup, even less capable than their entry-level employees.”


  • “Companies say they are finding they don’t have the managers to spearhead new projects or step in for departing executives, a problem as companies try to shift into growth mode.”


  • “Only 33% of HR leaders are highly confident in their frontline leaders’ ability to ensure the future success of their organizations.”


Before you rush into catch-up mode and implement just any leadership development program, consider the following from McKinsey & Co. McKinsey surveyed hundreds of chief executives and identified the following four most common mistakes:

1. Overlooking context

Context is a critical component of successful leadership. A brilliant leader in one situation does not necessarily perform well in another. Too many training initiatives are based on the assumption that one size fits all and that the same group of skills or style of leadership is appropriate regardless of strategy, organizational culture, or CEO mandate. This is a major reason that job-talent matching is essential.

2. Decoupling reflection from real work

When it comes to planning the program’s curriculum, companies face a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, there is value in off-site programs (many in university-like settings) that offer participants time to step back and escape the pressing demands of a day job. On the other hand, even after very basic training sessions, adults typically retain just 10% of what they hear in classroom lectures, versus nearly two-thirds when they learn by doing. Even the most talented often struggle to transfer even their most powerful off-site experiences into changed behavior on the front line. Support coaching must be an element of the process.

3. Underestimating mind-sets

Becoming a more effective leader requires changing behavior. But although most companies recognize that this also means adjusting underlying mind-sets, too often these organizations are reluctant to address the root causes of why leaders act the way they do. Identifying some of the deepest, “below the surface” thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs is usually a precondition of behavioral change—often not included in leaders’ development programs.  I have been a proponent of assessment-based learning for decades and continue to be.

4. Failing to measure results

McKinsey found, when businesses fail to track and measure changes in leadership performance over time, that they increase the odds that improvement initiatives won’t be taken seriously. Too often, any evaluation of leadership development begins and ends with participant feedback; the danger here is that trainers learn to game the system and deliver a syllabus that is more pleasing than challenging to participants.  All Talent Management Institute programs have a measurement component embedded within.


Companies can avoid the most common mistakes in leadership development and increase the odds of optimizing the participants’ capacity to achieve measurable results by:

>matching specific leadership skills and traits to the context of the job;

>integrating leadership development in real work;

>boldly assessing the mind-sets that underpin behavior;

>measuring and monitoring the impact on performance improvement.

Learn More

The Talent Management Institute provides a Total Talent Management System™ which includes the critical components of Job-Talent Fit and Developing Coach-Based Managers, the ultimate team leader development process.

Click on the following link to learn more about a transformational process we call The Work of Leaders which could be the ideal place to begin.

The Work of Leaders Process

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