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Are Leaders Prepared to Meet These Challenges?

By Rich Wellins, Ph.D.

Richard S. Wellins, Ph.D.

With a clearer picture of what skills leaders will need to drive business success over the next three years, a question that still needs to be answered is: Do they have what it takes? Unfortunately, leaders tell us that they don’t. When asked to rate their own effectiveness in each of the leadership skills, 40 percent or more of leaders said they were ineffective in any of the top five critical skills. In fact, the most critical skills needed in the future (such as innovation) are what leaders are least effective in today.

Leaders' ineffectiveness in critical skills


Why are so many leaders deficient in these critical skills? The most critical skills for the future are progressive—driving change, identifying talent, and fostering innovation are not for rule-governed leaders. Part of the reason so many leaders are ineffective may lie with their personal attributes or dispositional qualities. HR professionals were asked to identify the most common personality shortcomings of leaders in their organization. These shortcomings, more apparent in times of stress, are often called “derailers” because they can significantly impair a leader’s performance.

According to HR professionals, the most common personality derailers of leaders in their organization were risk aversion, distrust, and approval dependence. Risk aversion and approval dependence are likely to hinder a leader’s ability to be comfortable in driving change and fostering innovation. Risk aversion refers to leaders who play it safe in their decisions and actions. During the recent economic crisis, leaders probably were reinforced for doing exactly that. Approval dependence refers to leaders who have difficulty acting independently; they look to their bosses or peers for permission to act. These personality characteristics hold leaders back from challenging existing paradigms and thinking outside the box, two important approaches for fostering innovation.

What you probably noticed is the top five critical skills all center on positioning your business to compete in the future. So while immediately important, failure in these skills has the potential to significantly disrupt your organization’s strategy. And it’s the dynamic nature of these skills that makes development so critical – you simply cannot prepare for every eventuality so instead you must prepare your leaders to adapt.

Which skill will have the greatest impact on your business? Let us know!

Rich Wellins, Ph.D. is senior vice president at DDI.

Posted: 12 Sep, 2013,
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