Five years ago, the iPad was new. Uber was unknown. Obamacare became a thing. The Chinese economy expanded by 10.3%, while austerity was the name of the game in Europe.

Five years from now—who knows? The important question is: Will your leaders be ready?

CCL has a history of studying the “leadership gap” — how aligned current leadership is with what is thought to be important for effectiveness in the future. The current research shows that leaders are not adequately prepared for the future. This finding is consistent across countries, organizations, and level in the organization.

The full breakdown of leaders’ strengths compared with the capacity needed to be successful over the next 5 years is available in a new CCL white paper, The Leadership Gap: What You Need, and Still Don’t Have, When It Comes to Leadership Talent.

Minimize Your Leadership Gap

Author Jean Brittain Leslie shares 3 important steps that HR and talent decision-makers should take to minimize their leadership gap:

1. Recruit and develop high-caliber leaders whose strengths match the organizational need—not the skillset needed 5-10 years ago. The 4 most important future skills — inspiring commitment, leading employees, strategic planning and change management — are among the weakest competencies for today’s leaders. The leadership gap, then, appears notably in high-priority, high-stakes areas.

Other areas with a significant gap between needed and existing skills are employee development and self-awareness. These 6 areas make the “key gaps”— competencies that are not strengths but are considered important.

Organizations can use the same assessment used in the CCL research — the Leadership Gap Indicator — to identify the capabilities managers need now and in the future to execute and sustain their strategy. When important competencies are found to be weak spots, targeted development initiatives can be put into place.

2. Identify “over-investments”—leadership competencies that are strengths, but are not considered important. The CCL study found that respect for differences, composure, compassion and sensitivity, cultural adaptability, and putting people at ease are common over-investments.

When bench strength and capacity exist in areas that are not most important for success, back off. Further large-scale efforts to boost these areas are unnecessary. Be willing to let go of successful, long-standing training initiatives (even “flagship” programs or a project that was your baby) if they are no longer needed.

3. Recognize and deal with trends that impact the leadership gap. CCL partnered with APQC (one of the world’s leading proponents of business benchmarking, best practices, and knowledge management research) on a survey of the leadership deficit today.

The study surfaced 6 key leadership trends that are statistically significant regarding the leadership skills gap:

    • Outdated leadership styles continue through current selection, development, and reward practices.
    • Leaders are resistant to changing their leadership style.
    • Leadership development is an underinvested component in organizations.
    • Current business challenges require a different style of leadership.
    • A democratic leadership style is needed for innovation.
    • Employees are not interested in developing leadership skills.

“A gap between current leadership bench strength and future leadership demands is a serious liability,” says Leslie. “The sooner you understand the reality of the leadership situation in your organization, the quicker you can adapt by refocusing leadership development efforts and rethinking recruitment priorities.”


  • Over-investments: Competencies that are strengths but not considered important.
  • Reserves: Competencies that are not strengths and not considered important.
  • On Track: Competencies that are strengths and important.
  • Key Gaps: Competencies that are not strengths but are important.

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