In today’s fast-paced, complex and challenging business environment, extraordinary leadership is in demand more than ever. But, companies either wait far too long to develop leadership skills in their own employees, or expect to import the perfect leader from their competitors. It usually isn’t until an employee either steps up into a leadership role or is close to being promoted that a company begins to invest in leadership development --- and this is far too late.
A Harvard Business Review study shows that the average age of employees in leadership development programs is 42 – much older than the average age of an employee in a leadership role, which is 30. The study reveals that employees occupy leadership roles for approximately a decade before undergoing any training.
If you wouldn’t take golf lessons from someone who isn’t a golf pro, then why would you trust an untrained leader to run your team?
Confidence in leadership is at a record low
Fewer than 50 percent of employees trust senior leadership. Through a review of academic literature, the Economist has concluded that “one in every two leaders and managers is judged as ineffective.” These results aren’t surprising when you consider the lack of leadership training and experience that employees in senior positions have. Even if companies send their leaders to a weekend workshop or an accelerated course, if true leadership capability isn’t reinforced, over time employees will fail to develop as successful leaders.
Top leadership skills like the ability to motivate others, relationship building, effective communication and mentorship, are skills that directly relate to bottom line results, employee retention and corporate reputation. It takes a lot of practice, time and guidance to hone these skills, which is why early leadership development is vital.
Bridging the leadership gap
To build the next generation of engaged leaders, companies need to start early or they will miss out on younger top talent who are looking to fast-track their career. Companies like GE, who have early career leadership programs are not only smart to invest now in securing the skilled future navigators of their company, but they are also attracting young top talent away from their competitors.
When leadership development doesn’t start as a practice early on, leadership training provided later will not be as effective. Offering mentorship opportunities, visibility with senior leadership, cross-business experience, and leadership skill training to the younger generation of your workforce will build a strong foundation to develop the talent that will become the future leaders of your company. Creating a two year program, similar to GE’s, will help keep the talent you hired in the door, and by offering a rewarding next step after the program is completed will deliver a big return on your talent investment. Don’t wait until it’s too late to invest in the success of your company. Start today to ensure that your leaders of tomorrow can deliver the results you need.