Reason #1 Leaders Fail to Develop Next Gen Leaders

This article is the second in a series on why leaders fail to develop Next Gen Leaders. You can read the first one here.

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Reason #1. Leaders think they’re better at this than they actually are

The first reason leaders are failing to effectively support the development of next gen leaders is that many senior leaders not only think they know how to develop future talent but believe they do it well. In one study, while 64% of leaders believed themselves to be ‘highly effective’ or ‘very highly effective’ at identifying and developing future talent, few of the HR professionals surveyed agreed with their assessment.[i]

Neither is the view held by many senior leaders that they are effective at developing others, shared by those they are seeking to develop. In my experience, while managers think they are having effective development conversations few of those they are having them with would agree. Future leaders want both more feedback and more recognition and they expect it to be skilfully and constructively delivered. Yet time and again when I talk to a manager and a next gen leader after a development conversation, the manager is of the opinion they have shared everything they feel is necessary and the next gen leader comes away wondering what it was they were really trying to say.

While there seems to be a significant gap between many leaders and their direct reports when it comes to development conversations, the gap becomes significantly wider when senior leaders take on the role of mentors and sponsors of emerging talent.

This is not to blame senior leaders, simply to point out that we are asking them to take on roles they are ill-equipped for simply because they neither know what good looks like having neither been taught nor experienced it themselves. One recent survey found that nearly 40% of senior leaders had never been mentored themselves and this begs the question of how effective this mentoring may have been.

This conundrum is exacerbated when we are asking senior leaders to help develop next gen leaders to have the confidence and skills needed to lead in the age of digital enterprise and to lead more diverse teams with higher expectations of their leaders. Future leaders will need more highly developed and nuanced soft skills than even leaders of today and they are looking to current leaders to help them develop them.

This article is not intended to make anyone feel bad ;-). It’s simply giving ourselves permission to acknowledge that senior leaders may not yet be all they or we would hope them to be when it comes to nurturing the next generation of leadership.

 So … how effective do you think you or your senior leader are at developing next gen leaders?

#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

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