It’s been more than a decade since the first alarm about a shortage of leaders. Who can forget the countless surveys that indicated a significant decline in the confidence in leadership bench strength, or the reports that leadership skills gaps were a top concern among talent management professionals and CEOs alike?
Common causes leading up to leadership-shortage concerns included recruiting wars for talent, the retirement of many baby boomers, changes in the nature of work, and poor organizational practices identifying, selecting, and developing talent.
Sadly, new surveys report the leadership-skills gap still exists. The concern seems to have spread further around the globe, and the World Economic Forum on the global outlook for 2015 identified the lack of leadership as the No. 3 challenge over the next 12–18 months. Out of 1,767 respondents to the Survey on the Global Agenda, 86% agree there is still a leadership crisis.
This paper shares findings from 2 research studies designed to explore the leadership gap. In the first study, we surveyed 2,239 leaders from 24 organizations in 3 countries. We found that crucial leadership skills in organizations are insufficient for meeting current and future needs.
The second study was conducted by APQC, a member-based nonprofit and one of the world’s leading proponents of business benchmarking, best practices, and knowledge management research. This study explored the potential drivers behind the continued shortage and showed that certain leadership and business trends are contributing factors to this deficit. APQC’s special report also provided recommendations for organizations that want to bridge the gap between where they are and where they need to be as they adjust and reinvent themselves.
Businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, and educational organizations need leaders who can effectively navigate complex and changing situations. Organizations need to ask “Who do we have?” and “What do they need to do?” as well as “Are they equipped to do it?”
We also conducted a research study to determine if the current level and type of leadership skills are sufficient to meet organizational needs.
The project was designed to address the following 3 questions:
• What leadership skills and perspectives are critical for success, now and in the future?
• How strong are current leaders in these critical skills and perspectives?
• How aligned is today’s leadership with what will be the most important skills and perspectives in the future?
A leadership gap or deficit may have one of 2 causes: lack of mastery of the required competencies or lack of focus on necessary skills. The first is a matter of degree; the second is a matter of substance. Either can be a problem in both the short and long term.
Organizations — and individual leaders — want to avoid a discrepancy between areas of strength and areas of need; however, the data from our study indicates that organizations today are experiencing a current leadership deficit and can expect a leadership gap in the future.
The leadership gap appears notably in high-priority, high-stakes areas. Other areas where there is a significant gap between the needed and existing skill levels are employee development and self-awareness.
This white paper is an extension of the previous work — The Leadership Gap: What you need, and don’t have, when it comes to leadership talent