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6 Leadership Megatrends for 2018 from the New Global Leadership Forecast

by Evan Sinar, Ph.D.

These megatrends from the largest Global Leadership Forecast yet define the roadmap for leader readiness.DDI, in collaboration with The Conference Board and EY, recently released our Global Leadership Forecast 2018. This is the eighth—and by far the largest—leadership research study in DDI’s long-running GLF series extending back to 1999. The research includes data from more than 25,000 leaders, from first-line leaders to C-suite executives, from more than 2,400 organizations across 54 countries and 26 industry sectors.

The overall report, available here, includes 25 individual data-derived findings about the current state and future directions for leadership. This future focus is important, because for this research to be a true forecast, it needs not only to describe the current reality, but also to prescribe a new path for closing the gaps between what’s now and what’s needed.

Looking across the research, we find several recurring themes that define the roadmap for leader readiness—the Six Leadership Megatrends:

Digital Reshapes the Workforce1. Digital Reshapes the Workforce: We see the pervasive influence of digital transformation throughout the research: the demands it’s placing on leaders of all functions and the competitive advantage for leaders mastering digital differentiation.

Digitally advanced organizations and leaders are financially outperforming their less technologically savvy peers, who risk being left far behind. Yet, scarcely half of Generation X leaders are digitally savvy and surprisingly, the digital readiness of Millennial leaders is almost identical.

The HR professionals who should be catalysts for leader growth in the skill side of digital transformation, meanwhile, are less effective operating in a digital environment than all other functions: only one HR leader in six reports being very prepared for a digitally-centric business strategy.

Data's Power Extends Beyond the Numbers2. Data’s Power Extends Beyond the Numbers: Given the heavy organizational investments in big data over the past decade, we anticipated seeing it as an increasingly valuable commodity for effectively deploying people analytics and in creating a well-targeted leadership strategy. But, we didn’t expect the role data and analytics play in impacting business agility and on the human side of the business through reducing subjectivity and boosting inclusivity and fairness.

Culture looms crucial3. Culture Looms Crucial: Successful organizations build their leadership strategies on rock-solid cultural cornerstones:

  • Leaders who don’t just state, but actually bring to life, organizational purpose.
  • Active use of peer coaching to supplement what leaders get from their own managers.
  • Acceptance of failure in pursuit of innovation and experimentation.
  • Psychologically safe work environments that elicit employees speaking up about where the company and its leaders might have drifted astray.
  • Tapping into the oft-invisible potential that exists across genders and generations.

DIY is DOA4. Today's DIY (Do It Yourself) Learning is DOA (Dead On Arrival): Do It Yourself learning cultures, when leader development starts and often ends with access to genericized, self-study resources, are the reality for many leaders, but few prefer these forms of learning. Leaders crave on-demand learning, but only when it’s relevant, timely, and personalized.

A DIY learning culture also becomes poisonous when leaders aren’t drawing on the advice of peers as coaches, or of external mentors sharing the unbiased perspectives that can be hard to find inside the company’s walls. Leadership is, more than ever, a team sport, and collective leadership styles are well-suited to data-rich, highly-competitive business environments, as are development-focused performance discussions with one’s manager.

The Potential Pool Swells to a Lake5. The Potential Pool Swells to a Lake: Organizations that shun traditional views of potential and broaden their definition and scope of consideration for spotting future-ready talent are much more likely to be financially successful, have a stronger bench of top leaders, and are more gender-balanced in their leadership, with more women at every leader level.

High-potential leaders also have a distinct pattern for how they want to learn, yet these aren’t often the methods they’re actually getting. In the eyes of high-potential employees, companies lean too heavily on books and articles while falling far short in providing paths to get coaching from external mentors.

HR Navigates a Challenging Road Ahead6. HR Navigates a Challenging Road Ahead: HR’s reputation as an Anticipator has faltered along with its declining rates of analytics success. On average, business leaders are more skeptical about the value of HR than they were three years ago, with only one in nine viewing HR as Anticipators.

Being a Partner to the business is no longer enough. Anticipators are much more likely than Partners to integrate talent with strategy planning, use an array of data and predictive analytics, plan and sustain a pipeline for leadership growth, and have broad-reaching and highly-effective programs in place to identify and accelerate potential. And, as noted earlier, HR’s ability to incorporate digital technologies into its role is also threatened by lagging levels of digital readiness for many HR leaders.

The Global Leadership Forecast 2018 takes a research-driven approach to link leadership practices to business results, the talent approaches that work, and why. The research includes practical recommendations for learning from the most successful of the 2,400+ companies included in the study, outlining how to maximize both the number and performance ceiling of high-potential leaders.

By mastering the six Leadership Megatrends above, organizations can create a robust and differentiated leadership strategy.

Evan Sinar, Ph.D. is the Chief Scientist and Vice President of the Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research (CABER). Evan is the lead researcher for the Global Leadership Forecast 2018 and is a frequent author and presenter on leadership assessment and development, talent management analytics, data visualization, and workplace technology.

Posted: 12 Feb, 2018,
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