Why Leaders Fail at Developing Next Gen Leaders

This article is the first in a series of eight, examining the reasons leaders fail in effectively developing the next generation of leaders.

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According to research in 2018 developing next gen leaders and attracting top talent are the top two concerns of CEOs worldwide.[i] These two issues were also in the top five in both 2016 and 2017. The problem is only getting worse. In Deloitte’s 7th Annual Millennials Survey 49% of New Zealand respondents envision leaving their jobs within two years and only 17% are looking to stay beyond five years.

Yet despite efforts to strengthen their leadership pipelines organisations around the world are struggling to do so. Sixty-five percent of HR professionals rate their organisations’ future leadership bench strength as ‘slightly weak’ or worse.[ii]

This is exacerbated by the fact that the leaders of tomorrow, have different views on what’s important and how organisations should be led. Tomorrow’s leaders believe business should be driving societal and environmental change. They want their organisations to highlight and model the importance of diversity, inclusion, and flexibility. What’s more, next gen leaders no longer believe the rhetoric they hear from current organisational leaders saying that current business leaders are not truly committed to building inclusive cultures.

The challenges next gen leaders face will be myriad and complex including the need to lead teams of people with diverse experiences and perspectives. They need support now to develop the skills they’ll need to meet these challenges, and they need it from those who haven’t had to deal with these challenges themselves.

This takes the skills required to develop future leaders to a whole new level. To ensure leadership succession and organisational survival, today’s leaders must get better at paving the way for the leaders of tomorrow.

To date, the solution has been to continue to pour millions of dollars annually into generic leadership development. But simply learning doesn’t lead to better organisational performance. Equally instituting organisationally sponsored mentoring programmes is not going to cut it. It is no longer enough for leaders to develop future leaders in their own image.

To grow next gen leaders, today's leaders need to step up and enhance their skills in developing people. Not just to become inclusive leaders or culturally capable mentors, but also effective sponsors and advocates for those who come from diverse backgrounds and will lead differently in a very different context from today.

This is uncomfortable territory. It requires us to admit that we don’t know what we don’t know and be sufficiently vulnerable and exposed to ask for help and learn from those whose life experience and perspective are different from our own, at the same time as we mine our own leadership experience for the lessons that will stand the test of time.

Look out for the next article which details the first of six barriers that get in the way of effective way-paving.

#diversityandinclusion #mentoring #waypaving


[i] Global Leadership Forecast, 2018: Twenty-Five Research Insights to Fuel Your People Strategy, Development Dimensions International Inc, The Conference Board, EYGM Ltd 2018

[ii] Ready-Now Leaders: Meeting Tomorrow’s Business Challenges Today, Development Dimensions International Inc, The Conference Board, Australia/New Zealand 2014-15

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