‘Leadership bench strength crucial to company’s success’

DDI’s latest Global Leadership Forecast underlines how organisations are struggling to find leaders to take up critical roles

March 15, 2023 09:39 am | Updated 10:27 am IST

Global leadership consulting firm DDI brought out its tenth edition of Global Leadership Forecast with responses from 1,827 human resource professionals and 13,695 leaders from 1,556 organisations around the world.

The research spanning a vast surface area at multiple levels — most notably, the fact that it took in 50 countries and 24 major industry sectors — provides key trends that mould the future of leadership. The key findings are:

1. Intense talent war

Overwhelmingly, the 529 CEOs that were surveyed ranked talent-related challenges as the ones that keep them up at night. CEOs are deeply sensitive to the fact that their most crucial group of workers — highly skilled specialists and future leaders — may leave for a better experience at a rival company, change career paths, or even take a break from the workforce due to burnout.

2. Leadership bench

Companies are struggling to build their leadership benches in a tough labour market; the pandemic and Great Resignation have certainly not helped matters. Only 12% of the companies have reported confidence in the strength of their bench; and these companies are reaping significant benefits. To address the issue of leadership shortage, companies need to look for leadership potential in unexpected places.

3. A crisis of trust

Leaders struggle to build trust, especially the leaders at the very top of the totem pole. However, trust is crucial to the success of remote and hybrid work, talent attraction and retention and other business challenges. The seven behaviours to build trust are: Listening and responding with empathy; providing opportunities for team members’ growth and development; sharing thoughts and the rationale behind decisions; genuinely acknowledging failures; inquiring and caring about employee well-being; encouraging others to challenge old ways of doing things; and recognising the success of team members.

4. Lack of confidence

Following the pandemic, cynicism has set in among the workforce, and that has coloured the confidence they have had in their leadership. While leaders struggle to maintain the trust and confidence of their teams, they also face internal challenges. Signs of burnout are growing among leaders, with 72% reporting they often feel exhausted at the end of the day, an increase from 60% in 2020.

5. Hybrid work

When leaders were asked to rate the quality of their leadership and work experiences, the leaders working in hybrid roles reported the lowest ratings for how engaged and energised they are at work. Fewer than half (49%) of leaders working in a hybrid role reported being definitely engaged and only a third reported that their work energises them, about 10% less than their in-person and remote counterparts.

6. Finding purpose

Having a strong sense of purpose at work has a powerful effect on leaders’ engagement and retention rates.

Yet many leaders struggle to find their purpose, especially those lower down the leadership totem pole. By conducting frequent and meaningful career conversations and encouraging self-reflection, this challenge can be overcome.

7. No coaching culture

Over the past few years, there has been a drop in the percentage of companies that rely heavily on coaching to develop their leaders. However, those that do develop leaders’ coaching skills continue to see significant returns.

8. The top five skills

Based on the responses by the leaders surveyed, here are five skills the leaders themselves feel they would need in abundant measure to be able to lead through uncertainty, and meet the leadership challenges gathering on the horizon — identifying/ developing future talent; strategic thinking; managing successful change; decision-making prioritisation; and influencing others.

9. Learning with peers

In-person learning experiences with peers dominate leaders’ preferences for development. The most successful learning strategies offer cohesive approaches that span multiple levels.

10. Retaining top talent

High-potential leaders have high standards for the types of leaders they want to work for, with 32% indicating they would not tolerate ineffective leadership, compared to 12% of leaders who are not high potentials.

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