The State Of Leadership Development

Leadership IQ surveyed 21,008 employees to assess how well their leaders were performing in seven key leadership areas...

In this Leadership IQ study, we surveyed 21,008 employees to assess how well their leaders were performing in seven key leadership areas. And we discovered that leadership development has NOT adequately prepared leaders to navigate the most challenging economy in 100 years. With a pandemic, recession, political turmoil, and racial justice protests, leadership development must equip leaders to seek innovation, communicate transparently, align their vision, and constructively solve problems, and that has not happened. Among the key findings, we discovered...

  • Only 29% of employees say their leader is always open to using ideas/practices from outside the company to improve performance.
  • Only 16% say their leader always removes the roadblocks to their success.
  • Only 20% say their leader always takes an active role in helping employees to grow and develop their full potential.
  • Only 29% say their leader’s vision for the future always seems to be aligned with the organization's.
  • Only 27% say their leader always encourages and recognizes suggestions for improvement.
  • Only 26% say their leader always responds constructively when employees share their work problems.
  • Only 20% say their leader always shares the challenges we're facing.

The data shows that traditional leadership development programs have left many leaders under-equipped to manage these unprecedented times. And if organizations want to survive the current chaos, their leadership development approach will need to address these seven issues.

Interestingly, the study results were consistent regardless of whether people were working remotely or in the office. So it’s reasonable to assume that these challenges with leadership development training are not solely a function of having people suddenly working from home. Instead, these seem to be deeper issues with the way organizations are developing their leaders.

STUDY METHODOLOGY
Analyses of companies’ leadership development typically ask OD, training, or HR departments about the programs they’ve implemented. But that’s a measure of the company’s activities, not whether those activities have been successful. Instead, we surveyed 21,008 employees (the people directly impacted by leadership development) to measure the success of leadership development. We selected seven dimensions of leadership development for this study based on how well they statistically predicted employee effort and inspiration. As you’ll see in the regression lines below, each of these seven dimensions is highly predictive of employee performance. Leadership IQ surveyed 21,008 employees and leaders in the United States during the month of June, 2020. Respondents answered 49 questions on a sliding 7-point scale about a variety of leadership development and employee engagement topics. Respondents represented the following demographics. GENDER: Female (58%), Male (42%) -- COMPANY SIZE [EMPLOYEES]: 1-9 (3%), 10-50 (9%), 51-100 (11%), 101-500 (23%), 501-2,000 (17%), 2,001-5,000 (11%), 5,001-10,000 (8%), 10,000+ (18%) -- POSITION: Administrative/Support personnel (13%), Professional (47%), Manager (18%), Director (12%), Top Level Executive & Vice President (10%). The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.

video overview of the state of leadership development in 2020

Finding #1: More Leaders Need To Be Open To Using Ideas From Outside Their Organization

Seemingly every day, a new set of challenges emerges for leaders. And no leader can hope to have all the answers ready-to-go, especially as the future becomes increasingly unpredictable. The most effective leaders seek solutions from both inside and outside their organization. However, it’s clear from the data that leadership development has not sufficiently emphasized that point to executives and managers.

A majority of employees feel that their leader is not open enough to using ideas or practices from outside the organization. And only 29% of employees say that their leader is always open to using ideas/practices from outside the company to improve performance.

Why is this issue so important? In addition to it’s obvious impact on innovation, it’s also a key driver of employees’ inspiration and effort. As you can see in the below regression line, the more a leader is open to using ideas from outside the organization, the more an employee will be inspired to give their best effort at work.

Finding #2: Leaders Need To Do Better At Removing The Roadblocks To Their Employees’ Success

In the current turbulence, employees are encountering roadblocks like never before. Whether it’s working from home, health anxieties, reduced staff, etc., every day brings new problems that require solving. And few things are more frustrating for employees than to feel like they’re running in quicksand. However, it’s clear from the data that leadership development efforts have not amply taught leaders how to remove those roadblocks to increase employees’ effectiveness.

A majority of employees feel that their leader is not doing enough to remove the roadblocks to their success. And only 16% of employees say that their leader always removes the roadblocks to their success. By contrast, 26% of employees say that their leader never or rarely removes those roadblocks.

Why is leadership development so important? Removing an employee’s roadblocks is one of the fastest ways to increase both their engagement and their productivity, and also reduce burnout. It’s also a key driver of employees’ inspiration and effort. As you can see in the below regression line, the more a leader removes employees’ roadblocks, the more an employee will be inspired to give their best effort at work.

Finding #3: Leaders Need To Take A More Active Role In Helping Employees To Grow And Develop Their Full Potential

As many companies anxiously struggle for short-term business survival, it’s not surprising that employees don’t feel like their leaders are doing a great job of helping them grow and develop their full potential. However, the research is clear that a key predictor of long-term business success is employee development. And the present study shows that far too many leadership development programs haven’t adequately instilled that thinking in their leaders.

A majority of employees feel that their leader is not taking an active role in helping them to grow and develop their full potential. Only 20% of employees say that their leader always takes an active role in helping them to grow and develop their full potential. By contrast, 29% of employees say that their leader never or rarely takes an active role in helping them grow.

Why is this issue so important? As you can see in the below regression line, the more a leader takes an active role in helping employees to grow and develop their full potential, the more an employee will be inspired to give their best effort at work. And previous research has found that when employees are learning new skills, they’re far more likely to be engaged at work. The more that leaders can learn this skill, the more employee engagement they’ll see.

Finding #4: There’s Not Enough Alignment Between Leaders’ And The Organization’s Visions For The Future

With a pandemic, recession, and racial justice protests, companies are fundamentally rethinking their visions and strategies. And one of the critical roles of leadership development is to ensure that leaders at all levels are fully aligned with whatever the current strategy happens to be. However, it’s clear from the data that leadership development has not sufficiently aligned leaders’ and the organization’s visions.

A majority of employees feel that their leader's vision for the future is not aligned with the organization's. Only 29% of employees say that their leader's vision for the future seems to be aligned with the organization's. By contrast, 16% say their leader's vision for the future is never or rarely aligned with the organization's.

Why does leadership development need to address this issue? As you can see in the below regression line, the more a leader's vision for the future seems to be aligned with the organization's, the more an employee will be inspired to give their best effort at work. And imagine a leadership team with competing visions; the chances that they will successfully execute on a business strategy are incredibly small.

Finding #5: More Leaders Need To Encourage And Recognize Suggestions For Improvement

Thriving amid a recession and a global pandemic will require good suggestions for improvement from every single employee. This is clearly a case where the more good ideas a company has, the better their chances of success. However, it’s clear from the data that leadership development has not sufficiently emphasized that point to executives and managers.

A majority of employees feel that their leader does not encourage and recognize suggestions for improvement. Only 27% of employees say that their leader always encourages and recognizes suggestions for improvement.

Why is this issue so important? Encouraging and recognizing suggestions for improvement is a big driver of innovation, and it’s also a key driver of employees’ inspiration and effort. As you can see in the below regression line, the more a leader encourages and recognizes suggestions for improvement, the more an employee will be inspired to give their best effort at work.

Finding #6: Leaders Need To Respond More Constructively When Employees Share Their Problems

Employees are facing more problems than ever before. Whether it’s learning how to work from home effectively, cope with pandemic-related procedures, etc., there’s no shortage of problems for leaders to solve. And yet, if leaders don’t respond constructively when employees share those problems, not only will the problems remain (or worsen), but trust can be shattered. And it’s clear from the data that leadership development has not sufficiently taught leaders how to respond constructively.

A majority of employees feel that their leader does not respond constructively when employees share their work problems. Only 26% of employees say that their leader always responds constructively when employees share their work problems. By contrast, 18% say their leader never or rarely responds constructively when employees share their work problems.

Why does leadership development need to work on this issue? Not only is this topic a key to actually solving an organization’s problems, it’s also a key driver of employees’ inspiration and effort. As you can see in the below regression line, the more a leader responds constructively when employees share their work problems, the more an employee will be inspired to give their best effort at work. And previous research has discovered that this issue is a key to building trust between leaders and employees.

Finding #7: More Leaders Need To Openly Share The Challenges They’re Facing

A key to managing in any crisis situation is open, honest and transparent communication. Ironically, the more followers clearly understand the challenges they’re facing, the more apt they are to elevate their performance to meet those challenges. But when they’re kept in the dark, anxiety and rumination can run wild. And it’s clear from the data that leadership development has not sufficiently emphasized the need for transparent communication to executives and managers.

A majority of employees feel that their leader does not openly share the challenges we’re facing. Only 20% of employees say that their leader always openly shares the challenges we’re facing. By contrast, 21% of employees say that their leader never or rarely openly shares the challenges we’re facing.

Why is this issue so important? As you can see in the below regression line, the more a leader openly shares the challenges we’re facing, the more an employee will be inspired to give their best effort at work. And related research has found that when an employee believes their company openly shares the challenges facing it, that employee is about 10 times more likely to recommend it as a great employer.

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