Academic journal article Human Resource Planning

Trends in Leader Development and Succession

Academic journal article Human Resource Planning

Trends in Leader Development and Succession

Article excerpt

This article summarizes key findings from a global benchmarking study of more than 4,500 leaders from over 900 organizations. Those key findings include a review of the qualities (e.g., results orientation, interpersonal skills, and personal qualities) that affect leader success and failure. The article also evaluates the most frequently used leader development practices in terms of their impact on the individual as well as on organizational performance. The final section examines the use of succession management systems, their most important qualities, and their impact on the organization. Recommendations for change and implications of the study are discussed.

The Leadership Challenge

In a complex and changing world, highly skilled and experienced leaders at all levels--not just senior leaders--are becoming harder to find. Leaders at all levels are asked to play multiple roles, including strategist, coach, global thinker, change driver, and entrepreneur. Because decision making often occurs at lower levels, line managers "now need to be as informed as senior managers about strategic business issues, as well as cultural, human-resource, and marketing issues. And there is a growing requirement for managers to have a global mind-set and manage across regions" (Verespej, 2001, p. 35-36). No wonder when organization try to fill a vacant leadership position many candidates seems to come up short in some critical skill area. Furthermore, the rush to fill open positions means that many leaders are unprepared when they start their new jobs.

Sourcing leaders has always been a challenge, and the situation is only getting more difficult. The ability to find leaders capable of handling complex leadership roles will be heightened by the gradual drain of seasoned and experienced leaders. An aging workforce and the retirement of a large portion of the leadership population will create vacancies at high-level positions critical for the success of the organization. Thus, organizations will be faced with the task of finding qualified leaders for multiple levels. Although the increased strain on recruiting and staffing leaders is a concern, the real danger to the growth and stability of organizations worldwide is the loss of experienced leaders who have a significant body of knowledge about their organizations and their industries. A leader with 20 years of experience in an organization is uniquely familiar with the history, goals, and culture. The US General Accounting Office predicts that by 2015, the number of workers older than 55 will balloon by 73 percent (Rappaport, et al., 2003). Similar trends exist in most nations in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. For example, Access Economics (, Australia's leading economic consultancy, forecasts that Australia's working-age population will grow by just 125,000 for the decade of the 2020s, compared with about 170,000 people a year currently. Access Economics also predicts that the number of Australians aged 55 to 64 is expected to increase by more than 50 percent over the next two decades. The aging of the workforce and the comparative lack of younger replacement workers will put a strain on organizations' ability to staff leadership positions.

Benchmarking Leadership and Leader Development Practices

When faced with the challenge of finding qualified leaders, organizations have a number of options such as improving their process for identifying leaders, strengthening leader development programs, ramping up succession management systems. The process for making these changes is not always clear, and organizations often look to industry best practices for help. In particular, a recent study of 944 organizations in 42 countries by Development Dimensions International (Bernthal & Wellins, 2005) provides valuable insight into leadership-related HR practices.

The 2005-2006 Leadership Forecast study gathered data from HR professionals and over 4,500 leaders to evaluate leader strengths and capabilities and leader development practices. …

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