Most of tomorrow’s leadership talent isn’t ready

Executives heading companies worldwide tend to be the last of a particular kind.

Tomorrow’s leadership talent is more likely from an emerging market, more diverse, and required to be more adept at risk management, dealing with corruption, and managing large groups. Also, they may have climbed the career ladder without ever having worked at corporate headquarters in North America or Europe.

Tomorrow’s leaders also are not likely to be ready to take over when the executive old guard retires, executive search firm Korn Ferry found after polling more than 100 senior-level executives from 49 countries.

Only 34% of respondents said their companies have the leadership talent with the right skills and mindset ready to take over. Thirty-six per cent said they have some work to do to develop a bench of tomorrow’s leaders, and 30% said they aren’t ready at all.

“We’re seeing the gaps everywhere,” Andrés Tapia, a senior partner at Korn Ferry in charge of leadership and talent consulting, said in an interview.

Not only is there not enough skilled leadership talent, Tapia said, but the existing talent also doesn’t have all it takes to head a multinational company in a global economy.

Only 16% of respondents said their companies had the right talent to succeed in the changing, global environment. Twenty-seven per cent said their talent had the right experiences to succeed, and 19% said their talent had the right mindset.

The most critical competencies for tomorrow’s leadership talent, the respondents said, include the ability to collaborate (17%), getting others to engage (15%), effectively communicating (12%), and having a global perspective (11%).

Effective global succession management means finding and developing leaders with the right blend of competencies, experiences, and personal traits, Tapia said. But most critical for companies is that today’s top executives take responsibility for getting the right leadership talent rather than waiting for HR to fix the problem, he said.

The old guard is fully aware how important it is for them to make it a priority to get their companies ready for tomorrow’s leaders to take over, but 28% of the survey respondents said leadership ownership is a barrier. Twenty per cent blamed the organisational structure of their company or cultural factors such as how things are managed within the company.

Five basics to develop a deeper, more skilled leadership talent bench

Tapia recommends that companies follow these five basic steps to get tomorrow’s leadership talent ready:

  • Pinpoint your business activities and drivers.
  • Get to know the markets in which your company operates in detail and understand the labour pool and the education available in these markets.
  • Figure out your skills gaps.
  • Define barriers to obtaining a global skillset.
  • Explore interventions and establish training programmes for leadership talent coming onboard.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

Access to Talent a Rising Concern for CEOs Around the World”: Availability of key skills is the biggest threat to organisations’ growth, according to 63% of CEOs in a PwC survey. That’s an increase of five percentage points from last year. The report lists five priorities that can help CEOs and other stakeholders combat a lack of talent.

Companies Invest in Employee Training to Reduce Global Skills Gap’s Effects”: Spending on employee learning and development is rising as companies attempt to hire and train new workers and leaders alike to combat a global skills gap, according to research by Deloitte. Read about some of the best practices in L&D, as well as mistakes to avoid.

Talent Becoming a Bigger Concern as Companies Grow Globally, Report Says”: More executives are looking to hire abroad and groom in-house talent as companies shape corporate strategies in a tepid – and increasingly global – economy, according to a Deloitte Consulting report.

Sabine Vollmer ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

Ten toughest competitors for global talent

A ranking of countries that do the best at attracting and developing talent with a global skillset was developed by INSEAD, a graduate business school with campuses in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, in collaboration with Singapore’s Human Capital Leadership Institute and US staffing agency Adecco.

The top ten countries on INSEAD’s 2013 global talent competitiveness index are:

1. Switzerland
2. Singapore
3. Denmark
4. Sweden
5. Luxembourg
6. Netherlands
7. UK
8. Finland
9. US
10. Iceland