Coming Soon to Your Business: A Leadership Crisis

Worried about your next generation of leaders?

You’re not alone. According to a new survey about leadership skills from Pearson and Executive Development Associates Inc. (EDA), 57% of business executives said their leadership talent pipeline was the same or weaker today than it was two years ago. Seventy-five percent said increasing bench strength will be their top business priority for the next two to three years. Is this too little too effort? 

When asked what skills were needed to assume executive positions within the next three to five years, respondents cited strategic thinking, leading change, the ability to create a vision and engage others around it, the ability to inspire, and the ability to understand how the total enterprise works. But the respondents also agreed these were the very skills lacking in their current talent pool.

The right successor must have just the right blend of personality, time and experience. And with a more complex and faster changing marketplace destined to be our future, the ability to deal with ambiguity and paradox is paramount. This combination requires innate talent plus development.  Creating this competency can take years and many people just are not equipped to ascend to the role. And others who have the skills and experience aren’t willing to give up their personal and family lives in exchange for a promotion and title. What motivated the Baby Boomers doesn’t motivate Gen X and Gen Y.

In addition to lack of skills, a leadership shortage is all but a done deal. When the Baby Boomers finally decide to slow down or retire, pure demographics will stall the succession. Gen X, the succeeding generation, is little more than half the size of the Boomers. And many Gen X and Gen Y are putting family before careers. 

One more glitch: while three to five years may not be enough time to develop the next generation of leaders, it might also be too long in a competitive market. Many talented Gen X are tired of waiting for the Boomers to get out of the way. As the economy is rebounding, job  offers will start coming in. It is already happening. Competitors and emerging companies are scouring the job market for talent and your next leader could be their target.

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