Leadership Development Survey

May 8, 2019
Sustainability - report

A strong call for improvement in developing leaders

The Leadership Development Survey conducted by Borderless Research℠ captured insights from close to 1,000 senior executives across a range of industries. The high rate of response and depth of feedback demonstrate that leadership development is of high relevance and is considered a key enabler of business strategy and growth.

Key findings

  • Leadership Development is believed to be a main driver for ensuring delivery of business results (43%) and business growth (20%).
  • Nearly half of respondents (44%) characterize leadership development in their organization as poor, and more than half (54%) describe it as ineffective.
  • A large majority (nearly 60%) are dissatisfied with their organization’s investment in leadership development activities, and more than 65% state that the level of their organization’s investment in these activities has, in recent years, declined or stagnated.
  • 29% of respondents are not aware of their organization having any kind of leadership coaching or mentoring program.
  • A majority (56%) believe support from top management to be a critical success factor for ensuring effective leadership development within organizations.

The Borderless perspective

The level of satisfaction with the effectiveness of and investment in leadership development is low, suggesting that either too little effort is made by organizations to establish leadership development programs or that what has been established fails to meet the expectations of executives.

“In prioritizing all of the elements that go into building a successful business, it would seem that many corporate heads consider leadership development to be a low priority ‘nice to have’ instead of a strategic imperative,” says Niels-Peter van Doorn, Head of Leadership Consulting at Borderless.

While most argue that effective leadership is necessary to achieve positive business results, the lack of focus on development suggests that leaders are expected to possess all essential leadership skills innately. This is reflected in corporate in the trend to “hire in” senior executives instead of growing and advancing executives from within. “Over-reliance on external hiring can frustrate and demotivate teams, and could consequently exacerbate internal organizational challenges,” Niels-Peter cautions.

To that end, Borderless offers the following six recommendations to establish robust leadership development programs:

  • In building leadership programs, a balanced approach focusing on both business acumen and soft skills, and understanding the interrelationships between these two elements, is required.
  • The active involvement of top executives in leadership development is necessary, and accountability for it should be held by the CEO.
  • Organizations must accelerate the development of less experienced executives to fill the emerging leadership gap, accentuated by ageing executive populations in many ‘traditional’ industries.
  • Effective leadership development programs need to be grounded in real-life challenges.
  • Job rotation, which has the added advantage of creating higher levels of understanding and cooperation between functions, deserves higher priority if organizations are to develop executives with broad-based general management skills.
  • If leadership development drives profitability and growth, then active engagement in leadership development should never be optional.

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