For a long time, leaders have asked the question, where will the next generation of leaders come from? And for a long time the same formula has been applied: Identify those high potentials in high school, college or in the workforce and provide that select group leadership development opportunities. Given the ongoing state of local and global challenges and the need for a more collaborative approach in addressing them, the Center for Creative Leadership’s Leadership Beyond Boundaries (LBB) initiative has been exploring ways to expand the leadership equation, empowering more people to contribute and address the challenges that come with interpersonal interaction in work, in the community and with friends and family.

One focus of the Leadership Beyond Boundaries initiative is early leadership development. But what do we mean by “early”? One answer CCL has been hearing for years comes from senior leaders, as they leave our programs wishing they had been able to benefit from a leadership development experience much earlier in their lives. Couple this statement with comments from youth, leadership development practitioners (Van Velsor, 2011), principals, and educators in schools and universities and a fairly consistent theme begins to emerge — that leadership development could occur much earlier and be provided to a broader audience.

Prompted by this theme of earlier and broader leadership development initiatives we began to ask several questions. When should leadership development start? What are the most important competencies to focus on in developing young leaders? Do our current leaders see young people as having what is needed for success? Have young people been able to develop the competencies organizations need in their entry-level workforce or that they will need to lead organizations and society forward? What impact would a broad investment in younger audiences have? Would it help them learn more about themselves and others, and propel them on an increased path of purpose and impact?

A subset of these important questions was the focus of a 2012 CCL Leadership Insights survey, the results of which are summarized in this paper. This online survey of business, government, nonprofit, and education leaders focused on: 1) the age a young person should commence his or her leadership journey, 2) whether leadership development should be part of the regular educational curriculum, 3) how widely it should be offered, 4) leadership qualities that managers want to see in young people entering the workforce, and 5) what excites managers and what concerns them about the young people they employ today.

We received responses from 462 individuals from all sectors of the economy, at all organizational levels and across the age range. Fifty-seven percent of respondents were male and 43% female. The majority of respondents (52%) were between 34 and 49 years old while 36% were age 50-64. Thirty-seven percent work in organizations with fewer than 500 employees, while 27% were from organizations with over 10,000. The majority of respondents (53%) work in the corporate sector, although a sizeable number were from public or nonprofit-sector organizations (10% education, 9% government, 10% nonprofit). Finally, most respondents were in managerial roles (48% had manager or director titles, 14% VP or EVP, 11% C-level). The vast majority (72%) were from the United States.

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