Leadership is fast resembling the famous Mark Twain quote about the weather – everybody’s always talking about it but nobody does anything about it. Based on their ongoing research, The Conference Board of Canada concludes,
“Building leadership capacity has been a top priority for several years, at least on paper. The problem is that, while many organizations have been talking about it, few have invested adequately in developing tomorrow’s leaders today. This must change. The quality of leadership matters to the very success of organizations.”
Our daily news is filled with sad examples of massive leadership failures. Jobs are lost, shareholder value is destroyed, and once successful companies crash and burn.
And “we ain’t seen nothing yet!” Companies face fierce competition, globalization, rising costs, and relentless margin pressures. Government deficits and public debt are at record levels while an aging population coupled with soaring social “entitlements” and healthcare costs hit taxpayer resistance. And labor unrest is growing.
The Conference Board of Canada identifies six key leadership challenges facing us today:
- “Aging leadership poised for retirement: Conference Board research confirms many organizations are concerned about impending retirements of senior leaders and managers.
- Depleted middle ranks: Many key potential future leaders were downsized in previous economic downturns, leaving a shortfall of promotable, experienced staffers.
- Lack-lustre succession planning: One international study found that, while 98 per cent of those surveyed regarded CEO succession planning as important, only 35 per cent actually had a succession plan and were prepared for an unexpected or planned CEO departure!
- Glass ceilings, sticky floors: Despite years of effort and discussion, research shows women and visible minorities are still underrepresented in key leadership positions –undermining organizational potential.
- New world, new leadership skills: Technological change, globalization, workforce internationalization, flatter organizations, economic uncertainty, and changing employee and customer expectations are only some of the changes that demand a whole new set of leadership skills and competencies.
- Outdated and ineffective leadership development programs: While the need is great, evidence suggests that organizations are not doing enough to improve their leadership development programs. IBM’s worldwide survey of HR executives found that just one third of respondents felt their organizations could ‘develop leaders effectively.'”
Study after study shows we have a critical leadership vacuum. Only a minority of people rate their leaders highly. Trust, morale, and engagement levels are at all time lows. Many people are planning to leave and find a new job as the economy improves and jobs become more plentiful. Younger generations are entering our workplaces with much less tolerance for poor leadership than their parents. They expect work-life balance, to be valued, treated as adults, and persuaded — not just told — why they should improve, change, or perform at higher levels (they are Generation Why).
These timely issues are being addressed by the Conference Board of Canada’s powerful conference Leadership Matters 2012: Building Leadership Capacity. This two-day event is in Toronto on May 8 and 9, 2012 and features a powerful line-up of Canada’s top senior executives, renowned thought leaders, and leading practitioners outlining and illustrating the vital skills and approaches so critical in mastering today’s organizational challenges. It’s a rare opportunity for highly concentrated leadership development.