Our research tells us that organisations 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 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 importance of strategic change and the confidence respondents have that their organisation’s leaders can deliver that change.

Key findings include:

  • Only 17% of those surveyed are confident their organisation 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.

What does all this mean? To start with, organisations need to re-think how they define and execute their leadership development strategy. To prepare leaders to meet today’s demands, development must become more relevant and draw upon four critical pillars:

Korn Ferry’s Four Pillars of Leadership Development

  1. Context is critical
    Design development around the real business mission, culture, challenges, and opportunities. This provides the context required for leadership development to be transformational and drive measurable ROI.
  2. Develop the whole person
    Focus on what leaders need to be and do to help maximize potential and match individual strengths and motivations to organizational needs.
  3. Treat leadership development as a journey
    Move beyond transactional development. Leadership development is a career long process that requires continued learning, with an intensity and timeframe that match the ambition and scale of the desired strategic goal.
  4. Service promotes purpose
    Link business strategy with purpose. The opportunity to contribute beyond oneself activates inherent leadership capabilities and enables people to experience the power and impact of true leadership.

The need for change is apparent in our findings. Organisations are buffeted by slow economic growth on one side and tumultuous marketplace upheavals on the other. For most, relying on organic growth alone is a recipe for inertia and decline. To drive sustainable growth, organisations will need to find new markets, new customers, and new ways of doing things, including new ways of developing leaders.

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

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