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The Future IS Now for These Critical Leadership Skills

By Stephanie Neal

Stephanie Neal

Which are the skills that leaders need to be successful now and in the future?

This is a question that 1,528 HR executives answered as part of the Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015, defining the current focus of their development programs (the now) and identifying the most critical skills leaders need to be successful over the next three years (the future). Ideally, the leadership skills identified as most critical for the future would have a corresponding and planned development focus now. Yet, since 2011 there has been a continued lack of focus on two skills that also relate to critical areas for business growth: Fostering creativity and innovation and Leading across countries and cultures. ThHighly Effective Leadersat makes these the most overlooked—or really, ignored—critical leadership skills because for the past two Global Leadership Forecasts their value has ranked very high, but they have still not gotten the necessary focus to develop leaders.

Leaders who are already effective in these areas have strengths that are not only in demand now, but also crucial for the future, particularly because both of these skills strongly relate to driving the success of an organization's growth and expansion plans. Based on the current leadership effectiveness rankings pictured in the graphic here, approximately one in two leaders are ready now to foster employee creativity and innovation, and even fewer (just one in three) are ready for global leadership.

It’s no surprise that leaders’ ability to lead across countries and cultures is in last place out of all ratings of leadership skill effectiveness. It is the one skill area for which HR has reported the lowest corresponding focus for the past two studies despite emphasizing the critical importance of leaders to drive global strategies. With only 26 percent of 2011 leaders rating themselves as highly effective in their ability to lead across countries, combined with this lack of development focus, it was an easy prediction that there would not be much improvement in this area.

The tougher prediction to make would have been to anticipate whether many more leaders could now be effective in these skills. Would having focus (and investment) on bolstering these critical leadership skills really pay off? The answer is a big YES. Organizations that have made leading across countries and cultures one of their heaviest focus areas since 2011 now have 44 percent more leaders who are highly effective than other organizations on average.

Our past data show what the benefit is of thinking development forward. Building development programs NOW that focus on the most critical skills leaders will need in the future is the most predictable way to help them succeed.

Read more about our findings from the Global Leadership Forecast: Critical Leadership Skills - What's Important Is Being Ignored.

Stephanie Neal is a research associate for the Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research (CABER).

Posted: 14 May, 2015,
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