Global Business Leaders Say This Is the 1 Thing They Fear Most

Finding, training and retaining next generation leaders is the biggest challenge for executives around the world, according to a recent survey.

The Global Leadership Forecast, collaborating with leadership training institute DDI, research association The Conference Board and consulting firm EY, polled 25,812 leaders and 2,547 HR personnel at 2,488 organizations across 26 industries from all over the world.

The leaders were given 28 different challenges for CEOs they could rank and “Developing next generation leaders” and “Failure to attract top talent” were the two that ranked in the top five challenges the most.

The top 10 CEO challenges according to the report were:

  • Developing next-generation leaders–64 percent

  • Failure to attract top talent–60 percent

  • New global competition–48 percent

  • Cybersecurity–28 percent

  • Slowing economic growth in emerging markets–25 percent

  • Labor relations–24 percent

  • Global recession–22 percent

  • Income inequality/disparity–21 percent

  • Outdated/insufficient national infrastructure–20 percent

  • Global political uncertainty–18 percent

Only 41 percent of the HR personnel polled believed their company’s leadership development program to be of high or very high quality, meaning that almost 60 percent rated theirs to be mediocre or worse.

Fortunately, the study, which is updated annually and is in its eighth year, also has actionable takeaways for how to prepare the future leadership of your company.

To develop the next generation of leaders, first you have to identify them. To help you identify these future leaders and develop them, follow these five steps in your organization:

1. Assess and plan.

Start with a candid assessment of your leadership development strategy and programs at all levels. Create a plan to support leadership development efforts with the goals of supporting successful leaders now and also building a leadership pipeline for the future.

2. Create and ensure.

If you don’t have one yet, establish a leadership capability model so you can ascertain if your leadership development program is working. As part of that capabilities model, ensure that leaders are equipped with the skills to identify and develop top talent. This will keep your pipeline of leadership candidates flowing.

We’re lucky as entrepreneurs–most of our organizations are smaller and in growth mode, which makes it much easier to identify potential leaders. I take pride in the vigorous recruiting process at my companies.

We never consider time spent for hiring as lost time. Rather, it’s an investment in the future of the company.

3. Review and monitor.

Review all of your leadership management systems and enhance them in ways that will allow you to build a cadre of competent leaders. In order to really know if your leadership development is working, you have to systematically monitor the effect it is having on the company. Gather data to see if it is helping the organization reach its strategic goals.

4. Articulate and deepen.

Have a way to articulate the impact your leadership development is having on your organization and what deficiencies it may have, as well as plans to address those deficiencies. Once you have everything in place, deepen your bench of potential leaders.

The downside of having a great leadership development pipeline is that other companies are going to come sniffing around to take advantage of your hard work, but if you have replacements at the ready, that will lessen the impact of leaders leaving.

5. Enlist and hold.

Enlist the help of your own c-suite and other business leaders who are not currently involved with your company to assess the effectiveness of your leadership programs, and also to act as mentors for future leaders. Hold leaders accountable for the development of their teams, particularly future leaders.

What to look for in future leaders

In my own experience, I’ve found that future leaders have an abundance of passion and motivation. To gauge just how passionate and motivated people in your organization are, seeing how they respond to an issue is helpful.

We had an unexpected issue with our e-commerce site that caused an immediate decrease in traffic and conversions years ago when most businesses were still using custom shopping carts. Three people within my organization immediately took the lead to fix the issue we were having, and their enthusiasm and passion told me these three were leadership candidates. Years later and all three of them have climbed their way up the corporate ladder to management positions.

With practice and a comprehensive leadership plan in place, you can spot the best candidates for next generation leadership positions and develop them into competent directors, managers and officers.

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Joan Guzman