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Are You Unprepared for Leadership?

by Erica Enriquez on October 14, 2014

There’s a theory that managers, good ones anyway, are made, not born, and with new research from Development Dimensions International (DDI), it may seem that this is the case, with business leaders, particularly those in the Millennials and Gen Xers groups, often feeling ill-prepared for the management position and responsibilities thrust upon them. Why is this the case, and what do new leaders need?

Leaders need help too!

DDI’s research, found in their report Leaders in Transition: Progressing Along a Precarious Path, found that new leaders wanted more guidance in their new roles, but only seek this guidance from their bosses as a last resort.  Is this because new and transitioning leaders want to prove their mettle in their new roles rather than admit there are still some things they have yet to learn?  The report says that these leaders instead seek advice from colleagues and peers (58%), family and friends (46%), mentors (32 %) or direct reports (38% ) before their bosses.

business leaders, particularly those in the Millennials and Gen Xers groups, often feeling ill-prepared for the management position and responsibilities thrust upon them.

Evan Sinar, Ph.D., study co-author and DDI Chief Scientist and Director, Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research, also notes, “Career decisions are being viewed as life decisions and, therefore, transitioning leaders are turning to personal networks like they do for other important life milestones and decisions”.

And what about Young Leaders?

Sinar says this about young leaders, essentially people who, due to age and experience, are trying to figure out pretty much everything they’ve got going on, not just their new leadership role in their professional lives, “They want answers now to address career growth issues much earlier on the career path, so they’re not still confronting them at the executive level.”   Mark Busine, Managing Director in Australia said “This emerging generation of leaders are faced with a new depth and pace of challenge compared with other generations”.

… New leaders wanted more guidance in their new roles, but only seek this guidance from their bosses as a last resort

So what is it that these transitioning leaders need in order to become the authority figure and person of influence they are called upon to be?

We need more help than we’re getting

Now that the pathway to career success isn’t in one straight upward trajectory, many people feel unsure of their career progression, and therefore their succession to leadership.  The corporate ladder no longer exists and 30% of the report’s respondents wanted a cleaner separation between old and new responsibilities, while an additional 42% wanted a more structured development plan to assist them in their new roles.  Another 31% asked for training to help them grown their interpersonal and leadership skills, proving that new leaders want to be great with their team and not just with their skillset.

 … Many people feel unsure of their career progression, and therefore their succession to leadership

Busine also says, ‘’the same research suggests in Australia 1 in 4 are quitting in the first year of employment because the new job does not live up to its expectations. This data combined tells us that without firstly getting really clear on the requirements of the role, it makes it difficult to set our people up for success and guide development, expectations and accountability ’’.

The research respondents also noted the following were essential leadership skills:

  • Strategic thinking – 30%, and important in a first leadership role
  • Creating networks – 19%, and important in a first leadership role
  • Engaging and inspiring employees – 39%, and highly regarded amongst Operational leaders
  • Getting work done through others – 24%, also highly regarded amongst Operational leaders
  • Navigating organisational politics – 27%, and highly regarded amongst Strategic leaders
  • Managing high-risk decisions – 31%, and also highly regarded amongst Strategic leaders

Sinar says, “Nothing is more daunting to a leader in a new role than realising they don’t have the skills necessary to perform well. Past experience doesn’t guarantee future achievement when new jobs require new skills.”

We need clearly defined expectations and feedback

If a transitioning leader is thrust into a new role that they may not have wanted, they are twice as likely to consider quitting.  A whopping 85% of respondents also noted frustration at assessments given without feedback afterwards.  They find they are less satisfied with their roles because they then have negative opinions about the little feedback they may be given, with no direction on how to move forward.

High Potential Leaders feel the burden more

A high-potential leader makes more transitions of higher complexity, and therefore finds that much more is expected of them. But, because their new and former managers overestimate the their ability to make a transition, they under-deliver on mentoring them in their new roles. What they really need, however is more, not less, guidance.  Almost half the high potentials surveyed said a more structured development plan would be helpful in these instances.

… They are less satisfied with their roles because they then have negative opinions about the little feedback they may be given, with no direction on how to move forward.

HR departments in organisations need to facilitate this guidance

HR departments need to be aware of the development needs of up-and-coming leaders, and create programs that meet their needs. “Also, organisations need to start the development of leaders earlier and ensure a mix of learning alternatives and resources that transitioning leaders can draw upon as they encounter new challenges,” said Matt Paese, Ph.D., study co-author and DDI Vice President, Executive Succession and Development. “This includes formal learning, coaching, mentoring and purposeful networking to cultivate a broad arsenal of leadershipsupport mechanisms. When formal programs to facilitate leadership transitions are in place, there is a positive financial correlation and increase in productivity,” he said.  

… Organisations need to start the development of leaders earlier and ensure a mix of learning alternatives and resources that transitioning leaders can draw upon as they encounter new challenges

It’s not about the money

Surprise surprise, less than 10% of the respondents said that money played a defining factor in taking on a leadership role . Just 54% noted any compensation increase with their new position.  “Leaders would rather have companies invest in their professional future and in the skills and knowledge needed for a valued career. This is an indirect, but powerful way to put money on the table and give a green light about the importance of the individual leaders to the organisation,” said Paese.

Interestingly, respondents further noted that with good career moves come numerous rewards well beyond compensation:

  • Nearly 50% said they felt empowered
  • 47% felt more self-assuranced
  • 45% had better insight into their strengths and weaknesses
  • 47% saw their “personal stock” soar as a result of their transition, as they are now viewed as being in a higher status

“Our study suggests that for many companies, the corporate aspirations of growth and globalisation don’t track with the amount of investment and preparation they are putting into their future leaders,” concluded Sinar.

Access the full report here, Leaders in Transition: Progressing Along a Precarious Path.

About Development Dimensions International Founded in 1970, DDI is a global talent management consultancy that helps companies transform the way they hire, promote and develop their leaders and workforce.  DDI’s expertise includes designing and implementing selection systems and identifying and developing frontline to executive leadership talent. Clients include half of the Fortune 500/ASX 200 and multinationals doing business across a vast array of industries from Berlin to Bangalore and everywhere in between. We serve clients from 42 DDI-owned or closely-affiliated offices. www.ddiworld.com.

Visit DDI’s Website, and folow them via LinkedIn and Twitter

Featured Photo Credit: Brand Management Conference – Lugano via Compfight cc

Erica Enriquez
I'm a Sydney-based writer and digital marketer, and can often be found pounding away on a keyboard, writing about everything from travel, lifestyle, wellbeing and anything in between. When I'm not writing, I'm STILL writing, developing copy and content for websites and marketing collateral. I"m passionate about film, literature and culture (high brow and low brow), as well as pro-social causes supporting cultural engagement (counting travelling as one of them). In my spare time, I love nothing more than to curl up with a good book, go for a nice dinner with friends or spend time with my partner.
 
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