It didn’t surprise me to learn that a recent survey by a top talent research firm revealed that only 37% of survey respondents (352 participants) would rate their executive leadership “excellent”, and less than 20% rated first-line supervisors excellent.
The study found that focused development effort is lacking for top executives. Not enough top people are getting “continuous improvement” of their leadership skills.
The survey report is titled Leadership Development Factbook: 2009: Benchmarks and Analysis of Leadership Development Spending, Staffing and Programs. It was produced by Bersin & Associates, and is available for purchase on their web site. You can download an executive summary at no cost.
I have some additional thoughts on why top leaders may fail to achieve excellent ratings. Several personality and psychological profiles have established that there is a distinct range of task vs. people/relationships. Some people are more task oriented, some more people oriented. Their behavior on this scale is mostly automatic – they manage in keeping with their preferred tilt on this scale.
In my 25 years in executive search and talent management consulting, I’ve seen many companies promote people up into the executive ranks based on production of specific results. This is fundamentally a good thing. People should get promoted based on producing results. However, the managers who are most driven toward results are usually more task focused. Often they lack strong people skills, and this is the area in which they need the most development. Hopefully, corporations, and even the leaders themselves will realize that investing in courses, coaching, etc. to improve leadership skills is very valuable to optimize corporate performance.