Real World Leadership: Part two: Build a pipeline of ready-now leaders

Part two of the Real World Leadership report series tells how companies can ensure leadership development programs yield a pipeline of ready-now leaders.

Gaps in the leadership pipeline hinder organizations' performance. A robust leadership pipeline is critical to drive strategy and growth so organizations may achieve their goals. But, while many of them have devoted considerable resources to development, few have a suitable number of leaders ready to take on greater responsibilities and the challenges of the future. For many, the pipeline is producing only a trickle of ready-now leaders.

To explore this issue, Korn Ferry conducted a comprehensive global survey on leadership development generating more than 7,500 responses from business and HR leaders in over 100 countries. The results in the second of four reports in this series reveals a sense of urgency among business leaders about their leadership pipelines. They recognize a need to generate increasing numbers of diverse leaders with new and varied capabilities far more quickly. However, they are unsure how to make this happen.

The breakdown of the respondents follows:

  • C-suite (26%)
  • VP/SVP/EVP (31%)
  • Director (27%)
  • Other (16%)

While the severity of the issue varies among organizations and industries, it's clear throughout the business world that demand for leaders is greater than supply and many organizations face a shortage of leadership talent. The complexity and fast-changing nature of the global economy has created the demand for new leadership mindsets, skills, and capabilities. With the failure of leadership development programs to develop people fast enough to fill the new and changing roles required for success, many organizations are in a predicament.

Korn Ferry's 2015 survey on leadership development reveals a sense of urgency among business leaders about their leadership pipelines. They recognize a need to generate increasing numbers of diverse leaders with new and varied capabilities far more quickly. However, they are unsure how to make this happen.

Key findings include:

  • "Filling gaps in the leadership pipeline" is a top global leadership development priority for organizations, second only to "developing leaders to drive strategic change."
  • Organizations are generally operating with a 50/50 "build" versus "buy" ratio to fill leadership gaps, even though they say the ideal ratio, based on current best practices, is 67% "build" and 33% "buy."
  • Most new executives require a minimum of six months to become fully productive in their roles, yet 53% of survey respondents expect optimal performance from leaders in new and critical positions in six months or less.
  • Lack of executive sponsorship is the number one barrier to successful leadership development.

The good news is that many organizations acknowledge the seriousness of the problem and recognize they should discard much of their current approach to leadership development, embracing new ideas to resolve ongoing obstacles.

So, what can organizations do to address their immediate pipeline issues? To connect with broader talent pools, they can intensify their recruitment efforts and employ social media and other state-ofthe-art outreach. However, the creation of a vibrant pipeline that consistently generates a flow of ready-now leaders will require that organizations make leadership development a core value and a
primary responsibility at all management levels.

This is the second of four reports that discusses the results and implications of our global research. Each is designed to reflect key survey findings on the status of leadership development across the globe, and provide market intelligence and insights that will help organizations develop leaders to build for future success.


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