Time For A Leadership Revolution

Note: Dwight is currently out on leave so we are running some “best of” blog posts from his writing for the Vistage Executive Street blog that you may not have seen before. Enjoy! “Organizations with the highest quality leaders were 13 times more likely to outperform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance”.

- Global Leadership Forecast 2011, DDI

DDI, (Development Dimensions International, Inc.), recently released their 2011 Global Leadership Forecast. This comprehensive report based on survey responses from 14,320 leaders and HR professionals from 74 countries is titled “Time For A Leadership Revolution.”

The study overflows with shocking data on the dismal state of leadership and leadership development efforts around the world. It illuminates attitudes about the fundamental issues and suggests many dramatic changes to be made if firms wish to be successful. We will focus on one of the many important points from the report in this post. We urge you to measure your own leadership against the recommendations.

The study found the top three leadership skills most valued in the past were:

1) Driving and managing change

2) Executing organizational strategy

3) Coaching and developing leaders


The prioritization has shifted to new priorities going forward:

1) Driving and managing change

2) Identifying and developing talent

3) Fostering creativity and innovation

The report then points out the “dismal picture” for leadership painted by about 1/2 the leaders who reported that they are not proficient in any of the top critical skills for the next three years.

There is a big incentive to invest heavily to alter this picture as the Boston Consulting Group (2010) reports that, “those who focus on innovation enjoy up to a six-fold advantage on total shareholder return versus their industry peers.”

A bright spot is the point made in the DDI report that “leaders themselves don’t have to be highly creative to drive a culture of innovation. (We take exception to the context created by the word “drive” – more on that later.) Instead, leaders need to set and model ideal conditions for innovation.”

“Therein lies the rub” as Shakespeare would say!  If leaders don’t have the skills to deliver on the top capacities, where in the world will they learn to shift a whole culture from command and control to one of shared vision, unleashed creativity, collaboration, and freedom to make mistakes? (As researcher Brene Brown has said, “One of my findings from interviewing entrepreneurs and leaders: When “Failure is not an option” neither is innovation.”)

The report suggests that leaders must address “four critical obstacles: success leadershiplack of stakeholder understanding, lackluster ideas, aversion to risk, and failure to execute.” Further, they must deal with “personality derailers…risk aversion, distrust, and approval dependence.”

In our view, that means creating an organizationwhere courage and risk taking are rewarded andshared vision connects people to their passion, unleashes their innovation, and calls them to action rather than somehow “driving them” to be innovative.

We are very excited about the findings in this report as they present a powerful case for leaders to commit to developing themselves as leaders which is what we are most passionate about. Some ways to do this are to participate in Vistage groups and also to engage in learning paradigm creating skills available through our work in 2130 Partners. If you are wondering how to “safely” get started on the trail of developing your skills for the new leadership priorities, try reading our book “Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today’s World.”