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Industry Revolution

In today’s landscape, what industries are most poised to succeed?

Leaders face unique challenges within their industries and the outcome of assessments demonstrates the variation between industries and how leader skill varies.

How do outside factors permeate leaders inside of an industry? Different industries were more vulnerable to VUCA pressures, for example.

“Within an industry, use pervasive skill deficiencies to identify which growth targets are most likely to provide a competitive advantage over peers.”

Industry Revolution

How Do Leader Skill Profiles Differ by Industry?

Of all classifications used to group organizations, industry is perhaps the most salient. It’s used to define relevant comparison groups for benchmarking and for competitors, economic climates, and labor trends. This detailed look at leader skill variation by industry, specifically, gauges and compares readiness to meet industry-unique business challenges.

One key differentiator among industries is the degree of VUCA pressures they face. HBR rated industries on how much technological and demand uncertainty they faced; we used the resulting VUCA index to show the links between uncertainty and leader skill.


Leader readiness varies tremendously by industry: the “Industry Revolution” graphic shows exactly how, displaying the strongest, mid-range, and weakest of 10 major industries on 10 vital leader skills, alongside the VUCA index of how turbulent each industry has been over the past decade.

We saw wide skill variation within the manufacturing sector, reflecting diversity across these industries, with Electronics/Machinery the strongest and Transportation mixed. Petroleum/Coal and Industrial were much weaker—neither was top-ranked for any skill.

Retail and Finance/Insurance leaders shared strengths in the interpersonal skills of coaching, communication, and networking, but they were average, though not weak, for most other competencies.

Health Care and Transportation were distinctive in their jagged skill profile, with both highs and lows; whereas, other industries were more consistent in rising to the top or falling behind.

From a talent management standpoint, building organizational talent was strongest for Health Care and Finance /Insurance leaders. Conversely, leaders in Pharmaceuticals and Transportation consistently were unable to demonstrate strong talent-building skills.

IT/Telecommunications leaders demonstrated notable strengths in execution and results focus, inspiring excellence, and operational decision making as well as average interpersonal skills.

Matching leader skill readiness to VUCA demands, the Pharmaceutical industry is most at risk due to a mismatch of high uncertainty and mediocre leader skills.


  1. Align leader readiness against the level of VUCA demands for a particular industry. For the three industries scoring highest on the VUCA index—Electronics/Machinery Manufacturing, Pharmaceuticals, and IT/Telecommunications—leader proficiency in VUCA-matched skills, such as inspiring excellence, compelling communication, and driving for results, will have particular impact.
  2. Within an industry, use pervasive skill deficiencies to identify which growth targets are most likely to provide a competitive advantage over peers (e.g., operational decision making for Petroleum/Coal Manufacturing or business savvy in Health Care).
  3. Due to major skill differences among Manufacturing industries, avoid collapsing “manufacturing” into a single category and comparing against the industry as a whole; doing so obscures critical distinctions within the sector.
  4. Organizations in the Finance/Insurance and Health Care industries have current leaders most prepared for building future talent and should continue to bolster this skill, while the Pharmaceuticals and Transportation Manufacturing industries must take immediate steps to remedy their deficiencies in this area to avoid severe risks for their internal pipeline of future leaders.
  5. Install or reinforce diagnostic assessments to gauge leader skills and remedy observed skill gaps. Incorporating these tools into selection and promotion decisions will be particularly valuable for industries with weaker skill profiles to begin to improve the talent pool of those well-suited for higher-level roles.
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A Synthesis of 15,000 Assessments into How Leaders Shape the Business Landscape
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