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Great Organizations | Great Leaders

Multiple Views on the State of Leadership

DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast research offers insights on generations, gender, and geography.
Multiple Views on the State of Leadership

For DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2011 we sought input from 12,423 leaders and 1,897 HR professionals from 74 countries. While this data could have been examined in so many different ways, we felt it was important to look at contemporary business trends, so we put four topics under the microscope for a much closer look.

This examination yielded four subreports that look at how Generation Y is standing up to the leadership challenge, how China and India stack up in leadership maturity, how gender balance in leadership impacts organizational success, and whether the U.S. is still competitive when compared to the rest of the world in the leadership arena.

The Generational Challenge

Generation Y (those born between 1981 and 2002) comprises roughly 25 percent of the world’s population, numbering over 1.7 billion. Of all leaders surveyed, those in Generation Y were found to be the least engaged in their jobs, though members of this generation are heavily engaged in technology and social networks in their personal lives. Prior research has shown that they also value the workplace as a source of learning and development, as well as a way to network and socialize with others.

Among the major findings from Generation Next: Ready to Step Up, or Step Out? a sub-report from DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2011:  

  • Only 50 percent of Generation Y leaders are confident in their skills related to fostering creativity and innovation.
  • Of all Generation Y leaders surveyed, 68 percent made a leadership transition in the past five years. And among leaders making a transition to a first-level leadership position, those in Generation Y found the transition to be the most difficult.  
  • Thirty-eight percent of Generation Y leaders cited “little/no time for development” when asked what they feel is holding back their development.

The Gender Divide

Today, despite the fact that women comprise almost half of the workforce, they hold only 10 percent of S&P executive positions, and as Stroope and Hagemann pointed out in an article earlier this year in Training+Development, a mere 3 percent of Fortune 500 companies are run by women. Sadly, while the quality and the quantity of women in the workforce increases, not many of them are making it into top jobs—a sign that organizations might be overlooking some of their best talent.

When we looked at Forecast participants, we found noticeable differences in terms of the performance of organizations based on their proportion of female leaders.

Some highlights from the special report Women Work: The Business Benefits of Closing the Gender Gap:

  • Organizations with more women leaders rated their leadership higher, compared to organizations in any other group.
  • Organizations with a higher percentage of women in leadership positions more frequently reported their financial performance as better than the competition.
  • Organizations that have more effective talent management practices had a higher percentage of women at all levels, but particularly at the executive level.

Leadership in Emerging Economies Head-to-Head

China and India have much in common. They both have populations in excess of one billion, and they both will experience high economic growth as they shift from being primarily export markets to servicing the untapped potential of their own local economies, due in part to a rapidly rising middle class.

Among the high-level findings from Leadership at the Future’s Edge: China and India:

  • On a leadership index, while China’s ratings are not only lower than those of India, they also are considerably below global norms. India, on the other hand, consistently hovers above the global norms.
  • China and India are almost identical in what they want from leaders in the future. The four traits they have in common: driving and managing change, fostering creativity and innovation, identifying and developing future talent, coaching and developing others.
  • When looking at leader effectiveness of skills, India is ahead. In every one of the top-five skill areas, 60 percent or more of the Indian leaders who responded rated themselves effective/very effective. In China, just two skills are in the 50-percent range: innovation and change.

Can the U.S. Still Compete?

The U.S. has long been an economic superpower, boasting global brands and a seat at the heart of the world’s economy. But is the U.S. a leadership superpower?

To answer that question, we examined several factors in our research: leaders’ view of leadership quality, leadership readiness for the future, and overall management culture. We also examined whether U.S. leaders are better prepared for today’s and tomorrow’s business challenges and for an increasingly complex global economy.

In The Next Leadership Superpower: How the U.S. Stacks Up, some of the major findings of the sub-report include:

  • U.S. leaders are the most positive when asked about the current quality of leadership. When compared to leaders in Asia and Europe, they are nearly 20 percent more likely to say “very good” or “excellent” when asked about leadership quality.
  • Organizations around the world rated bench strength as mixed, having leaders ready to fill some critical positions only. Even worse, only 32 percent rated their bench strength as strong or very strong, leaving dangerous shortages in key business positions. U.S. organizations are no better off when it comes to bench strength.
  • When it comes to the future of innovation as a leadership skill, only a little more than one in four leaders saw it as a top skill for the future.

Jazmine Boatman, Ph.D., is manager of DDI’s Center for Applied Behavioral Research.

Richard S. Wellins, Ph.D., is a senior vice president at DDI.

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