Real World Leadership: Part one: Develop leaders who can drive real change

Leaders must become catalysts for change. Our research tells us that organizations understand that aligning leadership and leadership development to drive strategic change is critical to their success. The problem is, in too many cases, execution is falling short. Meeting this challenge is one of today’s overriding leadership development challenges.

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 first of four reports in this series reveal a gaping disparity between the widespread importance of strategic change and the confidence respondents have that their organization's leaders can deliver that change.

The breakdown of the respondents follows:

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

Leaders must become catalysts for change.

Our research tells us that organizations understand that aligning leadership and leadership development to drive strategic change is critical to their success. The problem is, in too many cases, execution is falling short. Meeting this challenge is one of today’s overriding leadership development challenges.

Leadership development can be a powerful lever for CEOs to:

  • Drive a changing strategy.
  • Build the talent pipeline.
  • Develop a culture that aligns to strategy.
  • Create a more socially conscious and purposeful organization.

Developing leaders to drive financial performance and operational excellence will always be important. However, given the unrelenting pace of technological change, globalization, and an anemic world economy, organizations realize they need leaders who can effectively respond to constantly evolving business opportunities and threats, and chart a path to sustainable growth.

To explore these issues, Korn Ferry commissioned a global survey on leadership development. The results reveal a gaping disparity between the widespread importance of strategic change and the confidence respondents have that their organization's leaders can deliver that change.

Key findings include:

  • Only 17% of those surveyed are confident their organization has the right leadership to deliver on its strategic priorities.
  • More than half of executives rank their leadership development ROI as "fair" to "very poor" and they would throw out and rework half of their current leadership development approach if they could.
  • On average, 50% of first-level, mid-level, and high-potential leaders are not active in driving change.
  • Developing leaders to drive strategic change is the highest priority for executives, yet nearly half of the respondents reported that managing through strategic change is the number one shortcoming of current leadership.

What does all this mean? To start with, organizations need to re-think how they define and execute their leadership development strategy so that it can drive strategic change. Leadership development strategies need to build leaders who can engage the entire workforce and equip leaders who can really drive those changes. Ultimately, to meet this challenge, we’re looking at a sea change in leadership development, organizational culture and purpose, and, perhaps most importantly, linking business strategy and leadership strategy in a completely new way.

This is the first in a series of reports that discusses the results and implications of our research on leadership development. Our goal is to provide evidence-based, actionable information to assist organizations with developing leaders and placing them in the right roles to ensure future success.

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