Study Reveals 4 Leadership Gaps That Impede Performance


Jeff Boss, Contributor

April 3, 2015

The challenge of staying relevant in today’s fast-paced and hyper–connected world can be daunting if you don’t know when to move forward, when to stay put or when to adapt.

A recent leadership study shows that while the quality of organizational leadership improved from 2009 to 2014, the percentage of HR professionals who believe their leaders to be of high quality didn’t.

Many organizations lack a clearly defined leadership development pipeline. In fact, those companies that fill their positions from a larger percentage internally actually garner more than three times higher leadership strength and financial performance than those that don’t. Interestingly, however, is that many companies choose not to employ succession planning and when they do, it’s oftentimes aimed to mitigate outside scrutiny rather than qualify talent.

The dynamism of the business environment today is constantly growing. An IBM study of over 1,500 CEOs reveals complexity of the business environment as the number one concern among executives. To top it off, despite the fact that they believe the nature of the competitive landscape will only become increasingly complex, the majority of execs believe that their organizations are not equipped to deal with such dense challenges.

Below are four of the most common “gaps” cited by leaders and their performance implications:

1. Information abundance.

Gleaning the right information is much more problematic than acquiring the information itself due to the interconnectedness brought forth by technology. The global dispersion of teams and resources thus makes staying up to date a daily challenge. The impact of information upon performance is obvious, for without the right information people cannot make accurate or timely decisions and trust erodes as they begin to formulate their own perceptions about current events.

2. Information silos.

Many organizations use different systems software that precludes cross-functional communication, thereby inhibiting decision-making and therefore, progress. Moreover, there’s no cross-training to interpret each other’s system’s language. However, this doesn’t stop the interdependency upon which people and processes rely. In other words, a “minor” miscommunication in one part of the organization can ripple into a butterfly effect down the road—or at least create costly duplicative efforts that impede financial and employee performance.

3. Information specialists.

The rapid change of today necessitates a more holistic understanding of the environment. Learning how to adapt your thinking toward a similar problem set is a learned skill and different from applying it towards another problem of the same set.

Coming out of the military, I faced the challenge of translating my knowledge and experiences from the SEAL Teams into something tangible from which leaders and businesses can learn and improve. While the act of jumping out of planes and blowing things up didn’t transfer exactly (but sure were fun!), the acute focus, mental preparation and thought processes inherent in mission planning and organizational performance did.

We all have knowledge that makes us unique (well, most of us). The challenge lies in translating that specialization into broader contexts that benefit others.

4. Hindsight doesn’t equal foresight (but it sure does help).

Organizational learning occurs only as fast as the people and processes that accept change.  However, there’s a fine line between learning too fast and not fast enough: move before the market or the customers are ready and you’ll be considered crazy; wait too long and you’ll be considered irrelevant. While hindsight won’t predict the next best move to make, it will certainly afford greater context for future decisions.

Leadership development is too individually focused. The old paradigm that attributes culture and climate to a single leader must be replaced with a new one that leverages the environment to generate shared ownership and accountability. The secret is to spread leadership as far as possible throughout the organization, because only then will people feel empowered to make decisions, have a greater autonomy and yield greater meaning from work.


This article was written by Jeff Boss from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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