Developing Future Leaders – The Crisis That Most Companies Are Ignoring

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Nothing could be more important than strong leadership. But developing future leaders to sit at the helm of a company can be a problematic challenge.

This year, Deloitte released its comprehensive Global Human Capital Trends report based on the survey results of more than 7,000 business executives and human resources experts from across 130 countries. While the report provides insight into a number of vital topics including organizational structure, team management, and employee education, it is perhaps the firm’s findings on leadership that were of the most interest to the Ivy Exec team.

The need for excellent leadership is only getting more exigent. This year, 28-percent of those surveyed said the leadership pipelines at their organizations were weak or very weak. This perceived weakness comes even as companies around the world are shelling out some $31 billion on leadership development programs in the last year alone—a 10-percent increase over the previous year. The companies themselves acknowledge their failings: only 7% reported that they are excelling at developing young, millennial leaders and just 13% reported that they are excelling at developing international leaders.

So what’s wrong with this picture? It’s certainly not that the need for excellent leaders is undervalued—nearly 90-percent of companies surveyed ranked leadership as an important or very important issue. In fact, those surveyed by Deloitte said it was the second most important issue of all to them.

One of the biggest problems cited by the Deloitte study is that companies are not identifying and grooming future leaders early enough in their career. By undervaluing rising stars within the company, a crucial opportunity to prepare, train and educate the future generation of executives is being wholly missed.

So what does that mean for an employee with designs on running the show one day?

To avoid becoming a cautionary tale of a future leader who was missed for an executive fast track at your company, it is important to take action. Set your intentions and then make them known. Tell a manager that you’d like to learn more about other sectors of your organization to better perform in your own. Find out what educational opportunities are available to you within your own company and be sure to attend them and ask thoughtful questions. Not everyone is going to choose to stand out and go above and beyond to learn more. By doing so, you’ll be able to send the message that you are to be taken seriously and that you are going to milk every experience to help rise to the top. From the other perspective, if you are a manager or an executive in a company concerned about the future of your organization, you should make sure your business doesn’t fall into some of the trends found in the Deloitte report.

According to the Deloitte study, one-in-five companies lack any type of leadership development program whatsoever. This is unacceptable and reflects a lack of forward thinking and investment in the future of the company and the business. It can even signal to prospective employees that there is no upward mobility within the company, losing the exact type of talent you need most. This lack of leadership development is the first place to start reshaping the future of the company.

Leadership development programs do not have to be big, fancy or expensive. They can be smaller and focus primarily on pairing promising talent with more seasoned mentors within the company. Not only will you be developing the future C-Suite of your company but also, you will be demonstrating to your organization’s veterans that their experience and perspective matters. Doing so may even help bolster slumping employee engagement.

Another concerning trend arising in the Deloitte survey results is that young, millennials are looking for the best possible workplace experience and career trajectory and are willing to jump between companies to get what they want on their corporate climb. This trend goes hand in hand with concerns of a weak leadership pipeline. Future corporate leaders are looking for the most valuable professional experience possible and are willing to go wherever they need to go to get it—loyalty to their employer is no longer a priority. To retain this talent while simultaneously grooming the future leaders of the company, it is vital to enroll them in professional development programs that will signal that they are essential to the company. In this way, the best offense is defense.

As much as new trends may emerge in the workplace, the value of smart and effective leadership is only increasing. Any company that fails to develop its future leaders is equally failing to ensure its future success.

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