Dimensions International, in association with the Economist
Intelligence Unit, surveyed 412 executives last autumn about how they nurture
management talent, interviewing top CEOs such as GE Healthcare’s Joe Hogan,
Shire Pharmaceuticals’ Matt Emmens, Yum! Brands chairman and CEO David Novak,
and Manpower’s US CEO Jeff Joerres.
Many of the comments gleaned from corporate top brass are so heart-warming as
to be rather PR-ish and chafe somewhat against more cynical minds – “You have to
be a citizen of the world and be able to motivate people, understand different
cultures and be able to lead in the right way,” muses GE Healthcare’s Hogan –
but some of the statistics shed light on DDI’s concerns.
Of the respondents, 55% thought their firm’s performance was ‘likely’ or
‘very likely’ to suffer in the near future as a result of insufficient
leadership talent. Surprisingly, chief financial officers were the most likely
to link success to leadership with 70% of them saying their firm would suffer in
the near future because of the same issue.
What exactly is meant by ‘performance’ (financial, strategic, the size of
annual bonus cheques?), ‘insufficient’ (not enough, not good enough, or both?)
and ‘leadership talent’ (the ability to get the job done at all costs, an
inspirer of troops, a political genius, or all of the above?) is not fully
The study also said that business strategies were at risk from sinking under
the weight of soft issues such as a lack of management discipline, lack of
know-how and even laziness, but found that 36.4% of respondents thought putting
the wrong person in the job was the chief factor in strategy failures. As Yum!
Brands’ Novak put it: “I always say, ‘show me a good leader and I’ll show you a
good business’. People get excited by working around great people. The best th
ing you can do is build an A-Team.”
While DDI concedes that the findings are nothing new, the study criticised
companies continuing to eschew advice about creating structured talent
management strategies and clearly defined talent development goals.
“Given the centrality of talent to every organisation’s success, it is
difficult to imagine a more pressing business imperative than to engineer a
sustainable means by which leaders and associates will grow and feed the
business with the capability to conquer whatever new challenges it may face,”
the report concluded.
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