Tomorrow's corporate leaders may be hard to find

Lodging Conference CEOs
Tomorrow's leaders appear to be in short supply. (Image: Hotel Management)

CEOs may have the ship running smoothly now, but they are most worried about where their companies’ next generation of leaders is coming from.

That’s the finding of a new survey of industry leaders by DDI, The Conference Board and Ernst & Young. The subject has received much attention over the last decade, and the latest survey appears to indicate not much has been done to remedy the situation.

Knowing how to mentor and train successors was top of mind, with 64% of CEOs saying it was their biggest challenge out of 28 categories in the survey. Number 2, at 60%, was failure to attract and retain talent.

The findings suggest that building and steering a business are at the very least full-time jobs, leaving little time to foster professional growth of others with conviction.

Leadership talent is also lost by the retirement of baby boomers, the changing nature of jobs and top talent that leaves for a better position.

It likely raises the question—and probable concern—of CEOs about their company’s future.

"If you're deeply concerned about your organization's lack of leadership capability, you are in the clear majority," said Evan Sinar, vice president at DDI, in a statement. "We're facing a massive leadership shortage worldwide.

When companies look within their own organizations for leaders, an article in Forbes recommended the following:

  • Search for your future top executives by analyzing their combination of tangible and intangible skills. Companies need to evaluate professionals in a way that allows them to pinpoint the genuine rising stars from among the scores of hard workers. For instance, the most successful future leaders know how to inspire teams to generate results.
  • Help your high potentials hone their intangible skills as they rise through the company. Once you’ve identified your future executives, nurture them so they are truly ready for leadership when the time comes. Today, far too many professionals are promoted to management without adequate training, coaching, and mentoring.

Nearly 60% of companies are facing leadership talent shortages that are impeding their performance and another 31% expect a lack of leadership talent to impede their performance in the next several years, the Harvard Business Review said.

The publication offered the following as ways to develop leaders:

  • A need to stop teaching leadership theory in a vacuum, and start teaching people how to learn leadership from real-world experiences.
  • A need to expand teaching to encompass a set of leadership principles that can be globally applied across situations. Doing so will build an adaptive capacity that enables people to more effectively lead in today’s complex business environment.
  • Rewarding leadership development. All companies pay lip service to the importance of developing people, but how many companies actually reward (with any significance) the development of people? 
  • Companies need to expand their focus to figure out ways to efficiently and economically develop leaders throughout the organization.
  • Provide key talent with clear metrics and development priorities that provide a straightforward road map for realizing their leadership potential.

All good advice, and up to CEOs to pursue as a way of avoiding a vacuum at the top when it is time to take their companies to the next level through new leadership.