“People Are People” is a hit album released by Depeche Mode in the 80s. So what does an album recorded during the Cold War have to do leadership? More than you might think.

If you’ve been following our global trend research reports over the past few months, you’ve probably noticed great similarities among leaders around the globe. The data shows that “people are people” and “leaders are leaders,” regardless of where they live and work.

Each trend report draws on insights from a database of more than 25,000 leaders who have used our flagship 360° assessment tool Benchmarks® for Managers. After analyzing the data, we’ve found that most bosses globally share similar beliefs about what competencies are most important to the success of their business. They also share similar insights on the strengths of their leaders and on which capabilities need to be further developed.

It is a similar finding to our research on the challenges that leaders face around the world.

Through creating these Global Trend Reports, we’ve uncovered some overarching similarities. Here are a few insights on what these findings mean for leadership development:

1. Around the world, the same 6 competencies were rated most vital to leadership success.

Out of 16 competencies on CCL’s Benchmarks 360-degree assessment, the same 6 rose to the top in importance for the 4 regions and 7 countries around the world we examined:

  • Building collaborative relationships
  • Leading employees
  • Strategic perspective
  • Taking initiative
  • Participative management
  • Change management

INSIGHT: The most effective leadership development initiatives are designed around the competencies most critical to the success of an organization and its leaders. Based on the pervasive importance of these 6 competencies worldwide, HR and training teams would be well-advised to ensure they are tracking and building leader competencies in each of these 6 areas.

2. Leaders everywhere rate highest at “taking initiative.”

Among the top 6 most important competencies,1 all regions rate “taking initiative” as the most effective competency of their leaders. This confirms the well-known belief that the ability to get things done is what gets leaders promoted in the first place.

INSIGHT: A narrow focus on personal initiative can sometimes get in the way of organizational alignment. “Slowing down to speed up” is critical if leaders are to harness the entire organization for greater overall impact. Moving too fast – without buy-in and commitment from others – can lead to lower overall effectiveness and impact on the business.

3. Most leaders exhibit a strategic perspective.

Strategic perspective is about understanding the viewpoint of higher management and effectively analyzing complex problems. More than eight out of 10 regions rated strategic perspective as one of the top two strengths of their leaders. That means leaders are aligned with the unwritten rule in any job description, which is “always make your boss look good.” Solving complex organizational problems for their bosses can lead to higher visibility in the organization and to increased chances of a promotion.

INSIGHT: Decades of CCL research shows that strengths overplayed can become weaknesses, ultimately derailing a career. Focusing too much on strategic perspective can lead to the neglect of other important competencies.

4. Among the top-rated competencies, leaders are least prepared to lead employees. 

CCL research has long shown that leading employees effectively is critical to both individual and organizational impact. A leader’s performance and reputation within the organization is only as strong as his/her team.  So leaders need to know how to recruit the right people and then motivate and develop them as they progress throughout their careers.

INSIGHT: It is troubling that so many leaders around the globe need development in this fundamental area – especially since direct reports are critical to getting day-to-day work done.  Development of skills in how to best lead employees (such as coaching, mentoring, developing others, giving timely and consistent feedback) should be a top priority for every organization.

5. Leaders worldwide lack vital skills in how to build collaborative relationships.

While 91% of regions rated “building collaborative relationships” as a Top 1 or Top 2 capability leaders need, only 18% rated it as a Top 1 or Top 2 proficiency of their leaders.  Why such a significant gap? As our research on becoming a good boss shows, typically individuals are promoted into leader roles because they are strong individual contributors. In many organizations, the ability to build collaborative relationships with peers and external stakeholders simply isn’t often practiced nor rewarded.

INSIGHT: Individuals with “leader” titles have more self-development work to do if they are to master this competency. Growing their formal and informal networks and developing political savvy can be effective tools in building more collaborative relationships.

View our Global Leadership Trend Report summaries or download the entire collection of Global Trend Reports.


1 Please note that the rank ordering of effectiveness ratings referred to within this report are out of the top 6 most important competencies (Benchmarks® for Managers includes 16 total competencies that vary in effectiveness).

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