Organisations not confident about leadership capability, Harvard Business Publishing finds

Katie Jacobs , 11 Sep 2013


Only 32% of executives believe their organisations have the right leadership talent and skills to achieve their strategic goals, according to research from Harvard Business Publishing.

The research of more than 800 global executives and senior talent development professionals found just 31% are confident their leaders have the right leadership skills to cope with the current business environment.

In contrast to this lack of confidence, leadership development is seen as crucial for driving business transformation: 43% of respondents said this was the most significant goal, ahead of building general management capability (24%) and accelerating the leadership pipeline (21%).

Ray Carvey, executive vice president of corporate learning and international, at Harvard Business Publishing, told HR magazine this is a "paradox".

"People understand how importance leadership development is, but they can't see it reflected in their organisation," he said.

Focus on middle management

While previous Harvard Business Publishing research has found middle managers can be underserved by leadership development programmes, these latest findings suggest that is changing.

Around 80% of respondents said middle managers need to develop change management capabilities, 77% said they need to develop a 'leadership mindset', 76% communication skills and talent management skills, and 64% general management capability.

"Middle management is now recognised as something that requires leadership development," said Carvey. "With the new model of virtual leadership development, organisations can now reach many more leaders, including middle managers or those in distant locations who may not have had development opportunities like this before."

Barriers to investment

According to the research, the biggest barrier to getting participants to commit to a leadership development programme is time: 40% of respondents cited time away from the job as the biggest hurdle. In contrast, just 24% cited budget constraints.

"Executives face a huge challenge," said Carvey. "They need their leaders to help drive transformation of their business, but these leaders need to be transformed as well. The question is how, especially when you think of the scale that's needed."

HR magazine is running a web TV debate on training tomorrow's leaders on Tuesday 24 September. For more information and to sign up to watch, please click here

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Leadership as Practice

Eugene Fernandez 12 Sep 2013

Leadership is a critical capability within organisations, though you wouldn't know this was the case in many organizations. In my opinion the degree of strategic significance and subsequent investment in this key enabler is directly related to the Leadership practices of the Executive and the Board. Learning about and practicing Leadership takes time and concerted effort. Attending a training program or a virtual learning seminar thereby ticking the box on Leadership is a poor investment and enabler. You may increase your cognitive understanding of it but this does not necessarily impact on where it really counts – The Practice of it. One way of overcoming the argument that ‘we don't have time to learn about leadership’ is to embed the learning of Leadership within what people do at work, i.e. embed it within their daily practice and use their daily practice as a means to learn about leadership, this is a creative way around the problem. Any issue, problem or crisis can be used as a means to learn about leadership, you can then use the plethora of rich free Data out there to then reinforce the theory. Notice that this is the other way around from what many business schools and training providers offer. This though demands that the Training or OD function (If you are lucky to have one) or Senior Managers view this as a systemic intervention rather than a tick the box exercise.

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