Here is the new normal in today’s business world: ambiguity, complexity, hyper-competitiveness, and blinding-fast change.
But there is also another new normal: today’s emerging leaders simply are not ready. Extensive studies are finding that while the next generation of leaders excels in areas such as technology, online marketing, and other “hard skills,” these leaders lack the kind of strategic skills companies now desperately need to survive and prosper. The research shows an alarming gap in capabilities that are increasingly needed – yet are in short supply. Most particularly:
- Critical thinking and learning agility: the two key strategic information skills.
- Collaboration and team building: the two key strategic people skills.
This capability gap is far from hypothetical – its implications can be found on the business pages of newspapers almost every day. Research in Motion’s BlackBerry, for example, once owned the U.S. smartphone market, reaching an astonishing market share of nearly 43 percent in 2010. But by early 2013 – just three years later – BlackBerry’s market share had plummeted to 5.4 percent, far outdistanced by Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone. How could this happen? Research in Motion’s leaders either couldn’t recognize, or couldn’t adapt to, the change happening before their eyes.
Most worrisome is that, according to the research, companies across all sectors and of all sizes are facing the same kind of catastrophic risk. Emerging leaders, including highpotentials, must increasingly be able to think and act strategically – yet the studies show that a large percentage lack the basic skills to do so. At the same time, there are simply fewer young and emerging leaders to go around because of a smaller Generation X population. So the urgency to develop the most promising ones is compounded.
A study of multinational organizations,1 for example, found that critical thinking – one of the chief strategic skills – is the competency most lacking in the next generation of executive leaders. Other skills lacking revolve around seeing the larger picture and engaging others in a vision. Research across managerial ranks found similar distressing results 2 – an indication that there is trouble throughout the leadership pipeline. Managers rank low or average in skills such as building effective teams, motivating others, and making quality decisions. Hiring managers are taking note, too. In DeVry University’s Job Preparedness survey,3 91% of companies said they would not likely hire a candidate that didn’t have skills including strategic perspective.