Trends in Executive Development 2014

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For today’s executives, the ability to develop a successful business strategy is no longer enough. As we emerge from the recession into an ever more hyper-competitive business environment, the most successful organizations will be the ones with leaders who can create a compelling vision—and who can convey that vision to customers and employees.

This new reality was reflected in the key findings of 2014 Trends in Executive Development: A Benchmark Report. A wide range of executives and human resource leaders, including presidents, senior vice presidents, chief learning officers, and heads of executive and leadership development, reported that the ability to create a vision— and convey it to others—is now the single most important capability needed in the emerging generation of leaders.

These skills have, for the first time in recent years, surpassed critical thinking in importance, according to the HR leaders from more than 130 large and medium-size organizations worldwide. Creating a vision and engaging others rose from third place in the 2009 Trends Report to second place in 2011 and to first place this year.

But there is a problem. The HR leaders in the study reported that this same capability is the one most lacking in the next generation of leadership talent, followed by the lack of critical-thinking skills. Clearly, they are worried about the ability of the new generation to step up into top positions.

And there may be another disconnect. While the HR leaders in the study said their top priority in the next two to three years is developing capabilities needed to achieve vision and execute strategy, they still tend to focus developmental efforts in other areas. The two developmental activities their next generation of leaders are most likely to participate in, they said, are developmental job assignments and action learning. However, those types of activities alone are rarely enough to give emerging leaders the ability to create and carry out a larger vision.

As in past Trend Reports, the lack of bench strength continues to be the single most influential factor on executive development. With the end of the recession, many baby boomers who delayed retirement are now leaving, fulfilling long-standing predictions of an alarmingly limited flow in the executive pipeline. Many current executives acknowledge they have not yet prepared their successors, often because it is difficult to find candidates with expertise in the necessary specialties. The critical issue of bench strength will be discussed in more detail later in this report.

James BoltLeadership is the most important issue of our time as it affects everything, for better or worse. Therefore our ability to develop exceptional leaders, especially at the executive level, is crucial. You no doubt have a passion for leadership and are very likely responsible for developing other leaders. Therefore, I highly recommend this 2014 Trends in Executive Development Report as it will help guide and improve your important work. For example, among the many other critical findings, this report highlights how critical it is to use executive/leadership development to create an inspiring vision and to develop the capabilities needed to achieve that vision. The report is a goldmine of key insights for those who wish to benchmark their own efforts against leading organizations around the world. James F. Bolt CEO, FRED Inc.