Over the last few years, I’ve been on a journey of discovery.
My clients have told me over and over again about the same problem: they spend a lot on developing leaders, but they don’t see that investment producing better leadership.
These companies were dealing with considerable disruption. Change was everywhere, and most companies understood that the way forward was going to come from their leaders. It seems that no matter what the problem or challenge, all roads always lead back to the quality of a company’s leaders.
To address their challenges, many of these companies had aligned their efforts to apply the best practices preached by the leadership industry. And still, the results were disappointing. Their lament wasn’t simply about a poor return on investment. Rather, it was the outright concern that these companies needed their leaders to be at their best and they were not.
So, driven by an innate curiosity to understand what was going on and also a desire to help our clients, we set out to learn more.
The fundamental challenge that emerged is what I’ve termed the “leadership accountability gap”, which quite simply means that all over the globe, in businesses big and small, we have people occupying leadership roles who simply are not up to the task.
We were seeing this validated through our client work, but we wanted to better understand just how pervasive this problem was. So over the last two years, we conducted a global survey of our clients.
If you follow my work, you’ll know about some of the results. Based on the responses from over 2,000 clients worldwide, 72% believe leadership accountability is a critical business issue; only 31% are satisfied with the degree of accountability being demonstrated by their leaders. This is the gap that I have been trying to draw attention to in the hopes of finding a solution.
What was quite surprising to me was how consistent these results were across the world. No matter the language or the culture, a gap in leadership accountability was present.
In the report, we take a deeper look at three aspects of leadership accountability:
- The behaviors of truly accountable leaders
- The organizational practices that foster strong accountability
- The attributes of strong leadership cultures
The results of this deeper probe revealed a strong connection between company performance and leadership accountability.
In the survey, we asked respondents to self-identify their company performance based on quartiles: top quartile or industry leading performer; average performer or bottom quartile; or poor performer. While all companies said leadership accountability was a top issue, there were significant differences between the actual presence of leadership accountability in industry leaders and what was present in the average and below average performing organizations.
Most surprising is that both average performing and bottom performing companies rated themselves as lacking in accountable leadership. Both were miles apart from industry-leading organizations on a number of variables that we explored.
The report also provides an opportunity for you to reflect on the state of leadership accountability within your own organization. Think of it as your own personal leadership accountability audit.
As many companies continue to transform themselves, they need their leaders to be at their best. However, an absence of true accountability in the leadership culture of any organization can doom any chance of success.
This week’s leadership gut check asks: does your company have a leadership accountability gap?