It’s widely understood — thanks to genetic research — that humans are more similar than we are different. Our ongoing leadership research continues to show the same trend when it comes to leaders — across industries, it’s the same story.

If you’ve been following our industry trend research reports over the past few months, you’ve probably noticed great similarities among leaders across industries including healthcare, pharmaceutical, financial, high-tech, energy, and government. The data show that “humans are humans” and “leaders are leaders,” regardless of the industry they work in.

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

Through creating these Industry Trend Reports, we’ve uncovered some overarching similarities. Here are 5 insights on what these findings mean for leadership development:

1: 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 every industry we researched:

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

INSIGHT: The most effective leadership-development initiatives are built on the competencies that are most critical to the success of an organization and its leaders. Based on the pervasive importance of these 6 competencies, HR and training teams would be well advised to track and build leader competencies in each of these 6 areas.

2: Leaders rate highest at “taking initiative.”

Among the top 6 competencies, all industries 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 crucial if leaders are going 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 a smaller positive impact on the business.

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

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

INSIGHT: It’s troubling that so many leaders across industries need development in this fundamental area, especially since direct reports are vital to getting day-to-day work done. Developing skills to better lead employees should be a top priority for every organization.

4: Leaders lack vital skills for building collaborative relationships.

While all industries rated “building collaborative relationships” as the most important capability leaders need, none rated it as a Top 1 or Top 2 proficiency of their leaders. Why such a significant gap? 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 practiced or rewarded regularly.

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.

5: Leaders lack important skills in change management.

Aside from the financial industry, all other industries we surveyed rated “change management” as one of the lowest proficiencies of their leaders. This isn’t surprising — we have found that many organizations have mastered the operational or structural side of change, but give little effort to the people side of the equation. In fact, organizational change initiatives fall apart 50-70% of the time.

INSIGHT: To gain the desired results when implementing a new direction, system, or initiative, organizations need the benefit of change leadership along with change management. In fact, a recent study of 275 senior executive leaders gave us tremendous insight as they talked about the most important factors for success, including what you should do more of, do less of, and avoid all together.


Download our entire Industry Trend Reports series.


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