The Reluctant Leader

The Reluctant Leader

‘A leader is a dealer in hope.’

April 4, 2016

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them,” wrote Shakespeare in Twelfth Night.

Accomplished leaders range from Napoleon Bonaparte to Ernest Shackleton; Florence Nightingale to Malala Yousafzai.

Some have aspired to leadership. Others have not.

“Some people are born leaders, but that doesn’t mean they want to step into management roles at work,” notes FastCompany.  Only one-third of workers think a managerial job would advance their career, according to a recent survey by Addison Group.

The article indicates those with leadership potential have six things in common: They are relationship builders, they are approachable, and they see the big picture.

Also, good leaders think strategically, manage their egos, and achieve results.

Do such people hold leadership positions at your organization?

Identifying capable and willing leadership is challenging, as indicated by the 2016 Bersin by Deloitte High-Impact Leadership Survey.

A mere 35% believe their company’s success in finding and developing leaders is “above average” or “excellent.”

Further, perhaps the abilities of many in leadership positions are questionable.

No more than 60% of leaders are believed to demonstrate business acumen, and another 60% “execute and achieve results through their people.”

Only 48% inspire followers; 50% “drive change and innovation.” Fifty-two percent create synergies via partnerships.

Something is amiss.

This week, a look at the reluctant leader. What qualities comprise a great leader, and where are these workers hidden? How might such individuals embrace leadership roles?

‘Example is leadership.’ --Albert Schweitzer, theologian and philosopher

The Addison Group survey on leadership further reveals 25% “believe learning to be a better manager is a priority” and 17% of respondents say “managing others is not enjoyable to them,” according to

Organizations need to communicate the value of collaborations and leadership to benefit the company, but also as an important component in staff development.

“The leadership challenge is urgent and growing in importance,” notes Deloitte University Press. This year, 89% of companies view leadership as “an important or very important issue,” compared to 87% who thought so in 2015.

Twenty-eight percent of survey participants say they had “weak or very weak leadership pipelines.”

The article notes leadership profiles are “complex and evolving” and that companies need to be forward-thinking in developing basic leadership ability within individuals and teams.

Leadership abilities to cultivate include innovation, motivational skills, and capacity to “collaborate across boundaries,” along with interest in nurturing future leaders.

At present, 14% of companies surveyed believe they are “excellent” at “building global leaders,” and 14% think their organization is “strong” in succession planning efforts.

Four challenges to leadership development are identified:

1. Leadership programs are not designed on a platform of desired outcomes, priorities, research and assessments.

2. Org charts are shifting from hierarchies to team networks, necessitating new leadership style. Flatter organizations require companies identify and develop leaders earlier in their careers.

3. Definitions of leadership are reconsidered; leaders are no longer in charge because of power position, but due to their abilities to inspire teams. Leaders must be coaches and collaborators.

4. An aging workforce prompts a leadership shortage in some environments, and limited opportunities for younger workers elsewhere as veterans retain their positions. Multigenerational teams are important.

‘Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned.’ --Harold S. Geneen, American businessman

The 2016 Survey on Leadership Development indicates two primary leadership challenges companies face are an ability to strategically adapt to change (34%) and having a sufficient amount of capable leaders (29%).

Further, leadership development is identified as a “main driver for ensuring delivery of business results,” true for 43%, and growing business (20%).

Six steps to leadership development:

1. A balanced approach is required in evaluating not only business acumen and soft skills but also the connections between these components.

2. Top executives must be involved in developing leaders. CEOs must be accountable.

3. Acceleration of leadership development among those with less experience will fill a leadership gap.

4. Real-life business challenges should be the foundation for leadership development programs.

5. Job rotations will allow for cross-functional understanding and ensure a broad skill set.

6. Engagement in leadership development will result in growth and profitability. It is not an option for the successful organization.

The survey further identifies specific qualities great leaders possess. The top five are: Strategic thinking (53%), communication (49%), decision making (36%), motivating others (33%), and emotional intelligence (32%).

“This implies that the skills most required to deliver business results and growth are related to interpersonal skills… more so than to hard skills such as functional or financial expertise,” the report notes.

Three keys to success in leadership development include: Managerial support, a focus on talent, and adequate resources.

See “High-Resolution Leadership,” by Development Dimensions International Inc. for “a collection of findings that reflects how leadership shapes today’s business landscape.”

Eighteen vantage points focusing on leadership issues show how leaders impact growth and prompt economic advantage.

A few highlights:

• The changing economy forces leaders to do more with less, but the consequence has been less risk taking and less spent on developing talent. “Driving execution, coaching, and building organizational talent all slid in average leader strength from 2006 to 2014.”

• Soft skills are critical.  Good leaders master great conversation. “By the end of each day, leaders likely have had multiple conversations with a range of their constituents. Each… will collectively determine their ultimate success as a leader.” Also, empathy is an “anchor skill” and critical to successful leadership.

• Organizations have hidden leaders in functions they might not expect. “Leaders from two functions distinguished themselves as particularly well-rounded: Marketing/Advertising and Sales.” This is due to their communication skills, ability to sell a vision, and entrepreneurship—among other talents.

‘Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right thing.’ --Peter Drucker

Future-thinking organizations will pay attention to millennials. See The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey for an in-depth look at this cohort’s vision and expectations of leadership.

Millennials are not particularly loyal to their companies; two in three expect to depart by 2020, perhaps holding serious implications for the organizations they leave behind.

“Lack of loyalty may be a sign of neglect,” the report notes. Of millennials, 63% say their “leadership skills are not being fully developed.”

Last year, only 28% believed “that their current organizations are making ‘full use’ of the skills they currently have to offer.”

Ways companies can win over this cohort are presented. Since millennials believe leadership ability is an attribute employers most desire, and among their overlooked capabilities, it is critical employers focus on developing younger employees to earn their loyalty.

Don’t leave the future of your organization to chance. Strong leaders will prompt growth, increase profitability, and nurture not only loyal staff but attract loyal consumers as well.

Per Napoleon Bonaparte, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

LORA BRAY is an information research analyst for CUNA’s economics and statistics department. Follow her on Twitter via @Bray_Lora and visit the CUNA blogThe Research Roundup: Economic Perspectives.