The Leadership Problem


Sometimes, the beginning of the solution is awareness. We’ve all heard the adage that the first step to solving a problem is admitting we have one. Well if there’s any truth to that, we are a long way from finding a solution to the leadership problem.

I read a study conducted by Development Dimensions International that found that 87% of managers rated themselves as “good or excellent” when assessing their overall leadership skills. Contrast that with a study done by Adecco Staffing that reported that only 20% of employees surveyed believe their boss to be a great coach. Or a report by Spherion staffing that discovered that 61% of people believe that they have better management qualities than their boss. Clearly, there’s a disconnect between how good we think we are, and how good those who work for us think we are.

So our first step is to admit we have a leadership problem. Our businesses are full of mediocre, or worse, managers. There are some great leaders out there to be sure, but in reality, our chances of encountering one when we take a new job or get a new boss are slim.

There’s an additional challenge for businesses that don’t currently have what they would consider great leaders in their midst. Leaders tend to travel in packs. It’s rare to find that lone great leader in a company full of hierarchical thinking or micromanagement. Great leaders prefer to be with their own kind and so it’s much more likely to find several of them in a culture that’s open, communicative, and where the teams and the people are fully engaged.

The DDI report also states that 57% of the managers they surveyed learned their leadership skills through trial and error. That’s a nice way of saying we just threw them into the job and let them figure it out. I’m all for hands on learning as part of a development program, in fact, I think it’s critical. But does anyone believe that leaders will become accomplished and successful without structured development, or a great coach, or a role model? How many people reach the top of their sport or profession without any education or development in that area other than what they pick up on their own?

There is nothing more important to a business or any organization that wants to grow and thrive than creating leaders within its ranks. The reason businesses end up becoming complex, micromanaged places where fear is stronger than creativity is because they haven’t done that. I have never met anyone who set out to build one of those kinds of companies, but they exist just the same because the caretakers of the business never made leadership a priority.

Take a look at your business, your managers, and your culture and make an honest assessment of whether there are enough leaders present. Will you change anything if there aren’t? Most business leaders will make immediate changes if their revenues or profits drop but will they make the same kinds of drastic changes if they look around and see too few leaders?

Create a new metric for your business and focus as much on quality leaders as you do the results they create. Build a leadership P&L for your organization and watch as your focus on leadership drives sustainable growth that keeps you from chasing last months numbers, and leaves you thinking about next year’s opportunities instead.

Leading Through Influence

We develop better leaders so they can build a better future. Contact Us to learn about leader development via our training, workshops and executive coaching.