Leadership Study Calls for Flexibility, Creativity, Cultural Insight

Susan Hall
Slide Show

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Among the practices of the best companies for developing leadership, 90 percent expect employees to lead, regardless of whether they're in a position of authority.


That's from the Hay Group's Best Companies for Leadership study. Here Rick Lash, national director of the leadership and talent practice for the management consultancy, discusses the impending leadership shortage and leadership trends.


He says 15 to 25 million jobs in the United States are expected to become vacant in the next 10 years due to retirement, which means companies have to be grooming new leaders to step up quickly. At the same time, some skills, such as the ability to engage others, coach and develop talent, and to provide a broad business and global perspective tend to be developed over a period of years.


And as companies increasingly go global, leaders have to know what it means to lead in different parts of the world. True leadership, he said, tends to look the same no matter where it takes place, but it might be implemented differently in different parts of the world. That means developing the cultural understanding to be effective in different locales. In addition, today's leaders have to learn quickly, be flexible and creative in developing strategies to deal with problems they've never faced before. They have to create a sense of engagement and also a sense of purpose. That means that companies not only produce returns for shareholders, but have a positive impact in the community and the world.


This strategy+business post, called "The Rise of Generation C" might help. (The "C" stands for "connected.") It says:

Executives must begin now to develop an agenda that includes an analysis of the capabilities and workforces they will need in the next decade and beyond. A critical step will be to make sure that the organization as a whole understands the coming changes, and that there are already people within the organization who are living these changes now, who don't perceive them as a threat, and who can help integrate them into the organization's business plan.

The Hay Group each year picks 20 top companies for grooming leadership. This video tells how they're selected. You'll find the global list here. It includes tech giants Intel, Accenture, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco. (Interestingly enough, these companies have fallen out of the top 20 in the past five years: Zappos, IBM, Dell, Motorola, Verizon, Nokia, Oracle and Infosys. Oh, and BP and Toyota.) Among the best practices reported this year:


  • They all manage a pool of successors for mission-critical roles.
  • 90 percent collect leadership-development best practices from subsidiaries and share them.
  • Cultural diversity means 95 percent can respond to the challenges of competing in a global economy.
  • 95 percent have a "family friendly" corporate culture to support employees raising children.
  • They all develop leaders who can bring together resources across the organization.
  • They give all employees the opportunity to develop and practice the capabilities needed to lead.
  • They all pay male and female employees the same rate.
  • 95 percent have programs to help expats deal with the local culture.
  • They all get local leaders to participate in decisions made at headquarters to share ideas and best practices.

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