When It Comes to Leadership Companies Are In a World of Hurt

by Michael Haberman on January 14, 2010 · 6 comments

Talent Management Magazine reported the results of a leadership survey that presented eye-popping numbers on the lack of leadership many companies are facing in their future. The article, Many Companies Do Not Have Enough Future Leaders Onboard, reported the results of a survey done by OI Partners. They survey 212 large and midsized companies and found:

  • 54% of companies in the survey said they do not have enough qualified successors now working for them to succeed their executives and managers.
  • Only 32% of companies report currently having enough management successors in place.
  • 14% of companies are not sure whether they have enough future leaders already in their organizations.

My experience in working with small companies is that their leadership situation is even more dire.

The rest of the survey went on to describe what an opportunity this presents to employees or prospective employees. And indeed this is true. But from a company standpoint this is very worrisome or should be.

Where does your company fit into this survey? Do you have enough leadership talent? You had better look around. If it the talent is not there it will not automatically appear. Yes, some very ambitious employees may take it upon themselves to read and study and get personal experience to make themselves better leaders, but you cannot count on that.

Unfortunately many companies have the approach that once we give someone a title they are automatically imbued with all the supervisor, managerial and leadership skills we would want. “DING, you are now imbued with great leadership skill, go forth and lead.” Well, it does not work that way. So how can you give people the leadership experience? Here are some of my suggestions:

  1. Mentoring. But this only works if you are a good leader and teacher.
  2. Structured classes and structured reading. If you do this test the knowledge and try to have it applied quickly.
  3. Project work. Rotate various employees through project leading opportunities.
  4. Allow mistakes. Errors produce learning, but only if the opportunity to correct is allowed. Immediate punishment leads to learning the wrong thing.
  5. Get your employees involved in postions on nonprofit boards. It is amazing how much you learn, both good and bad, while serving on a board of directors.
  6. Have your employees read leadership blogs, such as Great Leadership by Dan McCarthy and Three Star Leadership by Wally Bock.

What am I missing? How do you develop leaders?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael D. Haberman, SPHR January 14, 2010 at 11:56 am

I have decided to add a comment myself. An additional training step for leaders is PRESENTATION SKILLS! Teach them how to speak and to conduct a power point presentation. As recent times have shown us there is power in being able to deliver a speech powerfully. Great speaking ability implies leadership ability. It builds confidence in both the speaker and the audience. The inability to handle powerpoint technology however, can detract greatly from the message. So train or have trained your future leaders in presentation skill. Toastmasters and Carnegie programs work well.


Sharlyn Lauby January 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Great post Mike! I agree with all of your suggestions. Giving people the opportunity to try new things can be a wonderful learning experience.


Trish McFarlane January 15, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I like your suggestions, especially the one about boards. I'll add that it's important to realize that since all adults learn differently, you need to build in both hands-on leadership learning opportunities as well as reading and writing skill development. I'd also add that regardless of what kind of leadership position you have, you need to understand how the company makes money. It sounds simple, but time and again I see people promoted who only have a vague idea of how the company actually operates from a financial perspective. Nice post!


Michael D. Haberman, SPHR January 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Trish, great comment. You are absolutely correct that training can be done in a number of different formats. And you are spot on that all leaders should understand how their organization makes a dollar, even a non-profit.


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