Effective leadership is crucial to an organization’s success. Yet, the ways businesses manage leadership development (LD) vary widely, encompassing in-house training, third-party external support, formal education qualifications—even the old-fashioned “sink or swim” approach. LHH, a talent solutions provider, wanted to take the pulse of the future of leadership development. The company polled 1,502 C-level executives in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia on their LD challenges. They uncovered five challenges that the companies currently face.
Five LD Challenges Executives Are Facing
- Responding to Change. According to the report, it is unsurprising that in an increasingly globalized and often turbulent economy, change is a major theme—89% report that “agility and responding to constant change” are a challenge, and the same proportion cited “adapting to business reorganization and restructuring” as a barrier.
- LD Buy-In and Talent Attraction and Retention. The other top challenges cited by C-Suite leaders are a “lack of investment and buy-in to leadership development” and “attracting and retaining talent.” The report highlights that LD is an important piece of attracting and retaining the next generation of leaders, and even in economic uncertainty, it’s a crucial investment.
- Geographic Differences. The report found a significant divergence across geographies when it comes to a focus on DEI and belief in how well aligned their leadership development programs are with their strategic business objectives. North American respondents are considerably more likely to have taken a DEI-related leadership course, and the majority (80%) of them believe their LD programs are aligned with business objectives, while the figures for Australia and UK are 58% and 33% respectively.
- LD-Centered Culture. The report found that the biggest barriers to implementing LD programs is “lack of interest from those benefiting from the training program” (35%), closely followed by “lack of awareness of the benefits of leadership training” (33%). The report concluded that this indicates a clear need for employers to institute an LD-centered culture where leaders are consistently communicating the specific benefits of the programs.
- Achieving Long-Term Success. According to the findings, organizations that prioritize comprehensive programs, engage strong external partners and integrate leadership development into their culture are better equipped to meet the demands of the future and achieve long-term success.
Investing In An Internal Culture Of Development
I spoke with Kristen Leverone, managing director of LD at LHH. She told me by email that the uncertainty of today’s economy is creating challenges for C-suite leaders who are tasked with navigating their workforce through the turbulence. Leverone cites the 89% statistic from the survey that “agility and responding to constant change” is a challenge, adding that it’s taking a toll. “It’s clear that the health of a business, particularly in the current landscape, is tied closely to the level of investment in the workforce, and C-suite leaders agree—with a strong majority indicating that the reskilling of workers (76%), recruitment and retention (79%) and managing remote workers (79%) will continue to become more important in the future of work,” she points out. “However, in implementing internal development programs, leaders are finding it difficult to ensure employees are leveraging available resources and dedicating time to their professional growth.”
The report acknowledges that, although nobody is born with change management and change leadership skills, it cites Dr. Joshua Margolis, Chair of Harvard Business School’s leadership development program, saying, “It’s imperative for leaders to understand the shifting terrain around them to ensure the ongoing relevance and sustainability of their organizations. ”
In advising clients on this topic, Leverone points out that this is a crucial moment for them to invest in building an internal culture of development in which workers understand they can have agency and propel their careers forward through learning experiences that provide the specific skills they’re looking for. “This means thinking of training beyond just an individual program and getting employees into the habit of constantly learning and improving in their work, ideally in a collaborative environment where they can share these learnings,” she explains. “This mindset starts at the top, with leaders providing recognition for those who work to develop themselves and celebrating their accomplishments, encouraging more to do the same. Leadership development works best when it is a two-way, participatory process that incorporates the next generation’s views around DEI, CSR and skills.”
Leverone emphasizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to LD. Still, she concludes, It’s important to understand what works for you and your company and help clients find what suits their particular needs the best.