Big takeaway from Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2014 survey: The need to “broaden, deepen, and accelerate leadership development at all levels, in all geographies, and across all functional areas” is by far the most urgent challenge facing organizations.
That critical need for leadership is followed by some gnarly people issues most of us are painfully familiar with: Talent acquisition, retention and engagement, and “the overwhelmed employee.”
Now here’s the part I found both scary and poignant: Survey respondents, execs at nearly 3,000 companies across the globe, were more than twice as likely to say their organizations were “not ready” versus “ready” to address these critical challenges. And the largest gap between Urgency and Readiness came in Leadership.
Urgent Need + Low Readiness and/or Ability to Deal = Holy Deer-In-The-Headlights, Batman!
While it’s tempting to resort to gallows humor (“Certainty of death, small chance of success? What are we waiting for?” -Gimli, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) organizations committed to thriving in the days ahead need to get serious about this leadership gap pronto. That means developing your organization’s leadership starting from right where you are right now, whether you feel ready or not.
Make no mistake: Leadership can be developed. In the words of leadership guru Warren Bennis, “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born–that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”
We see the proof of this in our client work all the time. People show up stressed, overwhelmed and resigned. But once they dig in to questions like What is leadership? and Why is it important to me, personally? they gain clarity around what it is they are being asked to commit to, to dedicate themselves to, and why. They see that the leadership journey requires them to lead themselves first and find the inspiration and support to begin that path.
The next stage of Leadership Development is Practice & Feedback. Practice includes training, modeling and role-plays, as well as bringing self-awareness to real-life encounters. Feedback can come from working with a coach or mentor, individually and in group sessions, as well as tools like 360 assessments. This is where people looking to grow as leaders are confronted with what old approaches and attitudes they need to give up, as well as doing the work needed to develop new perspectives, skills and habits.
Leadership is, of course, the very thing needed to transcend the scary, overwhelming world reflected in Deloitte’s “Capability Gap” chart below. Waiting and hoping for it to walk in the door is not a strategic plan. Building leadership is the key to an organization’s ability to rethink its strategies and reengineer its current approaches. There’s no better time to start than now.